Ecclesiastical court judgments – January (I)

A total of 20 consistory court judgments were circulated in 2024 and this first part includes summaries of judgments on Procedure and Reordering, extensions and other building works and Organs. The second part feature ExhumationChurchyards and burials, and also includes: Safeguarding and Links to other posts relating to ecclesiastical law.


Reordering, extensions and other building works


Substantial reordering

Re St. Michael and All Angels Byker [2023] ECC New 5 Background to this faculty application is given in [3] to [6], and in the Press Releases of the Newcastle diocese and the Byker Community Trust.

“[6]. After extensive local consultation, in February 2022 the St Michael’s Centre Partnership Byker was incorporated as a charity to develop and operate a youth and community centre from St Michael’s Church and its site, known as “The Lighthouse”, with the church as a key stakeholder with the incumbent and warden as trustees and the Area Dean as Chair of the Trustees…

[7]. …The PCC proposes to enter into a 30 year lease with the charity whereby it takes responsibility for a designated place of worship within the sanctuary and a connected community area with its own entrance to enable the whole church to be opened up for occasional larger services. The Lighthouse, operated by the charity, will provide facilities and activities for young people offering open access youth work, events and programmes. Local community organisations will be offered access to the space for their events, room hire will be offered on a commercial basis, and the overall vision is supported by local councillors and Newcastle City Council which has also supported bids for funds.”

The petition proposed extensive reordering works, both inside and outside the church, in order to adapt the church for use as a multi-purpose building with a dedicated worship space, an outdoor activity and play area and a Youth Hub extension. The Victorian Society, whilst not wishing to be a party to the proceedings, objected to the length of the proposed extension and its wood cladding.

Wood Ch. was highly critical of the approach of the Victorian Society (VS) [24] and [27], and observed:

“This is a listed building at risk, that is, and has been for some time, unsustainable in the form conceived by its Victorian forefathers. To use [English Heritage’s] word, the audacity of the scheme that has been devised to restore and repurpose the building but maintaining it as a place of worship, in an area crying out for a project with the breadth of the imagination that is being proposed is one to be greatly welcomed. The court respectfully adopts the response of the DAC quoted at paragraph 23 above: the missional advantages outweigh the harm alleged.”

[28]. In short, notwithstanding the position of the VS, I am satisfied that the faculty which will issue will include the extension as now conceived as well as the myriad of other proposals which are uncontentious.

[29]. Separately, the parties to the proposed lease will be the Bishop (as the benefice is in vacancy) and the PCC in favour of St Michael’s Centre Partnership Byker (more commonly known as The Lighthouse Project), such lease falling within the provisions of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011. Although not contentious, I am satisfied that the draft lease complies with section 68 and, as such, authority should be granted to enable the identified parties to enter into the lease and consent given pursuant to s.68 of the Measure”.

The Chancellor granted a faculty, being satisfied that the missional advantages of the proposed works outweighed the harm alleged. [Re St. Michael and All Angels Byker [2023] ECC New 5] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Reordering and alternative uses

Re St. Mary Threlkeld [2023] ECC Car 4 Several items of reordering were proposed, in order to make the space in the church more flexible for church and community groups and events. The proposed works are the first phase of a wide renovation and improvement project [5]. It is proposed that these works will be followed by a second phase, involving the construction of a new entrance at the west end of the Church, the construction of a full height partition separating the area in which the kitchen and toilet are to be situated from the rest of the Church, and the installation of new lighting and photovoltaic panels [10].

Objections were received as to the reordering generally and also as to lack of detail in some of the proposals. The Deputy Chancellor granted a faculty for the removal of the pews and their replacement with unupholstered chairs to be approved by the Diocesan Advisory Committee; a toilet; a kitchen; insulation of the roof; upgrading of doors; and tower repairs. Whilst it is clear that the Petitioners have had due regard to the Net Zero Guidance and that the DAC has correctly confirmed that this is the case [71], the proposals to replace the heating system are lacking in detail. This lack of detail has been the subject of adverse comment from Historic England as well as the CBC [72].

He refused to grant a faculty for secondary glazing and a replacement heating system, owing to lack of detailed information provided by the petitioners. [Re St. Mary Threlkeld [2023] ECC Car 4] [Top of section] [Top of post].

Re St. Margaret Rottingdean [2024] ECC Chi 1 Although no new points of law were raised, it was necessary for the Chancellor to address several misconceptions and erroneous assumptions of some of the parties involved. Aside from these, this was a straightforward petition concerning the internal reordering of the church. An interim faculty had been granted in 2021, authorizing certain works, Re St. Margaret Rottingdean [2021] ECC Chi 6. Notwithstanding the reservations of some statutory consultees, the Chancellor was satisfied that the works would improve liturgical use of the building and permit a range of community uses for concerts and events, and that the public benefit in implementing the proposals would outweigh the limited harm that would result. [Re St. Margaret Rottingdean [2024] ECC Chi 1] [Top of section] [Top of post]

See also Re Holy Trinity Cookham

Other building works, including re-roofing

Re St. Peter and St. Paul Pettistree [2023] ECC SEI 3 Gau Ch. prefaced his Judgment:

“[1]. To say that the events that lead to this Judgment are unfortunate is an understatement. The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pettistree dates from the 14th/15th Centuries and is a pretty grade II* listed building. The Petitioners clearly love the building and their bewilderment and frustration at what has happened to it are palpable. They are to be commended for their tenacity and thoughtfulness.”

The background to the cases is set out in paragraphs [1] to [9] and in the L&RUK analysis Deliberate breach of faculty conditions (6 February 2018) of Re St Peter & St Paul Pettistree [2017] ECC SEI]. In 2014, the inspecting architect had recommended Zinsser Grade 1 paint for the redecoration of the interior of the church as authorised by faculty. The paint proved to be totally unsuitable. It was impermeable, and the migration of salts from the walls to the paint layer caused it to expand and flake. In 2017, the Chancellor ruled that the Zinsser paint should be removed and the walls repainted with limewash or an alternative paint approved as an amendment to the original faculty.

The judgment states that the options put forward by a new architect were (a) to maintain scaffolding in the nave for 5 years to monitor the condition of the walls before further repainting, or (b) replastering and repainting, which would destroy fragments of old wall paintings. The Church Buildings Council, Historic England and the Society for the protection of Ancient Buildings rejected both (a) and (b), preferring overpainting, which the Parochial Church Council did not consider would solve the problem of the Zinsser paint flaking in future.

The Chancellor granted a faculty to remove the Zinsser paint from the walls, and also the plaster beneath it and then to apply new render to the walls, followed by a suitable number of coats of limewash t the fresh wall surface. [Re St. Peter and St. Paul Pettistree [2023] ECC SEI 3] [Post] [Top of section] [Top of post]

See also Re St. Thomas the Martyr Newcastle upon Tyne.

Re St Egelwin the Martyr Scalford [2024] ECC Lei 1 To meet the increased needs of the church and the community, the proposal was for the creation of a meeting room between the vestry and the servery at the west end of the church. The proposed room would have bi-fold doors, which could be opened up to make the room part of the nave when needed. The work would involve re-siting the font. Contentious parts of the proposals were the depth and height of the meeting room and the fact that two pillars at the west end of the church would be obscured. The Chancellor granted a faculty, being satisfied that the justification for carrying out the proposals outweighed any potential harm.

Aspects of the heating of the meeting room were discussed, [emphasis added].

“[15]. The creation of a separate meeting room to the nave would allow for the heating of only part of the building and would be a more affordable, efficient and environmentally friendly use of the Church. Currently, meetings at St Egelwin’s occur in the nave which is a challenge to heat. The Statement of Needs explains that the current energy system takes 24 hours to heat the entire interior of the church due to it being a low energy electric system. The heating consumption estimates provided in the Statement of Needs for the newly proposed meeting room are particularly helpful and were based on the actual energy consumption in similar sized rooms within the Church. It estimates that it will be possible for the meeting room to be heated to a suitable temperature within approximately 2 hours and to a warmer degree compared to the heating of the entire Nave interior.

Although not cited in the judgment,  there is a Church of England Case Study on the heating of the church, A large, listed church is heated efficiently by an air source heat pump.

[Re St Egelwin the Martyr Scalford [2024] ECC Lei 1] [Post] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Re St. Andrew Andreas (“Kirk Andreas”) [2024] ECC Nor 1 The Chancellor granted a faculty to allow a series of ‘Manx Crosses’ (a mixture of crosses in the true sense and slabs with crosses and other decoration inscribed upon them) to be displayed in armoured glass cabinets which would form a wall between the west end of the church and the church hall [2]; they date to the period of Viking occupation of the Island.

At present the sculptures are kept in what the petitioners refer to as “concrete coffins” and the intention is to place the most important of them in armoured glass cabinets which will then form the western wall of the church and divide it from the  church hall. The petitioners also seek permission to replace what Pevsner (perhaps a little unkindly) terms “pretend Georgian” doors4 with glass doors which would tie in better with the glass cabinets [5].

“A faculty will issue to authorise the works detailed in the application to the DAC  within three years of the date of its issue. This is longer than would normally be  permitted because the evidence in the papers indicates that the petitioners are still  engaged in raising the funds to undertake the works” [9].

[Re St. Andrew Andreas, Kirk Andreas, [2024] EC Sodor 1] [Top of section] [Top of post].

Removal and replacement of pews

Re St. Michael Chiswick [2024] ECC Lon 1 In November 2023, Etherington Ch. granted a faculty to allow the replacement of 209 late 19th century ladderback chairs with 120 new Abbey chairs from Trinity Church Furniture. The grant of the faculty was subject to there being no objections in response to public notices. In the event notices of objection were received from eight people, who did not wish to become parties opponent. The Chancellor decided that these petitioners had demonstrated a need for new chairs and he was satisfied with the design of chair chosen.

Etherington Ch. summarized the forms of objection in Faculty Proceedings which are reproduced here.

Net zero issues

Re Holy Trinity Cookham [2024] ECC Oxf 1 The proposals included an accessible toilet within the west tower, removal of the pews, new stone flooring and a new heating system including underfloor heating and perimeter radiators heated by a replacement gas boiler. There was opposition from the statutory consultees. The Chancellor had to consider whether the petitioners, as required by the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015, had given ‘due regard’ to the net zero guidance on reducing carbon emissions issued by the Church Buildings Council. The Chancellor granted a faculty, being satisfied that the petitioners, through their heating consultant, had considered all alternative sources of heating and that “at the present time, a replacement gas boiler is the only viable and affordable heating option which will meet all the relevant needs and aspirations of the church”. [Re Holy Trinity Cookham [2024] ECC Oxf 1] [Post] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Re St. Peter Mancroft Norwich [2024] ECC Nor 1 As part of the church’s aim to reduce its carbon footprint to net zero by 2030, the petitioners sought to install solar panels on the roof of the south-aisle of the church, six storage batteries in the former organ blower room, two external heat pump evaporator units and associated cabling. St Peter Mancroft (“SPM”), which is seen as Norwich’s civic church, is a very well-known landmark in the centre of Norwich with a prominence on the city’s skyline. It appears to the eye as a backdrop to other well-known features [1].

The PCC had considered the issue of solar panels in 2020 when it was renovating the lead roof but rejected the idea then because of the church’s energy output and the likely limited benefits of solar panels without storage batteries. The church in 2023 re-evaluated the potential that solar panels might offer if combined with storage batteries. The use of these has increased in the last three years, as has the availability [5].

The Petitioners now consider that the conjoined use of solar panels and storage batteries will provide significant advantages for the church. They reason that, since the church is well lit by natural daylight and that the electrical output will be mostly used for lighting which can be stored, the viability of solar panels is greater now than they had concluded it was in 2020. They also contend that the storage would enable higher power demands (kettles/organ etc) without needing to draw power from the Grid [6].

Aspects of the installation are considered in [7] to [18]. Although the building is a prominent feature of the Norwich skyline, the Petitioners contend that views of it are limited due to its low pitch and parapet, the existence of other buildings and the topography of the city and surrounding land.

The Chancellor considered that the panels would have little visual impact on the church and that the level of damage to the architectural and historical significance of the church would be very low. He therefore granted a faculty. [Re St. Peter Mancroft Norwich [2024] ECC Nor 1] [Top of section] [Top of post]

See also Re St Egelwin the Martyr Scalford.

See also Re St. Mary Threlkeld where despite the need for a replacement system, and the petitioners’ due regard to the net zero guidance, this aspect of the petition was refused through lack of detailed information.

[Top of section] [Top of post]


Re St. Thomas the Martyr Newcastle upon Tyne [2023] ECC New 6  St Thomas the Martyr holds a unique status in the Church of England in that it has no parish but nor is it a Peculiar. It is governed by a body corporate comprising the Master (the senior priest) and Churchwardens whose power derives from statutory authority [1]. A faculty had been granted in 2021 for a major reordering to meet the church’s needs and support its mission following its designation as a Resource Church (Re St. Thomas the Martyr Newcastle upon Tyne [2021] ECC New 1).

By petition dated 30 January 2023, the Master petitioned on behalf of the body corporate to commence the process of repairing, modifying and refurbishing the organ to bring it back into a fully working and playable condition; the work would be undertaken in two phases over a period of ten years, as and when funds permit [2].

There was one objection on grounds of cost, but the objector did not wish to become a party to the proceedings [4] to [6]. The broader background was discussed in [2021]  CC New 1 which noted inter alia the nature and purpose of the re-ordering as well as the church’s role vis à vis the civic community. Although it did not feature in the 2021 re-ordering faculty, in June 2022, “it came to the court’s attention that, during the church refurbishment works, the console had been removed from the church without permission…[10]”.

[11]. With a suitable rebuke for carrying out works without suitable authority to do so, this event was explained as a necessary step to ensure it was sufficiently protected from the works but that there was a clear intention to return it in due course as part of a wider plan to restore the full instrument once suitable fundraising had been carried out. Having been furnished with advice by the DAC which agreed to the console being stored for 12 months on terms. The court approved a retrospective amendment to the 2021…

Wood Ch. concluded:

“[25]. The plan is an ambitious one, will require much fundraising and will likely take at least the decade that it is suggested will be required. In the court’s judgment, to grant an open ended faculty to cover the entire project over at least ten years in circumstances where two distinct phases are identified would not be appropriate faced with such uncertainty. The ambition to return the console and embark on Phase 1 is, however, reasonable as presented and the court is satisfied that it should grant a faculty to complete that work within a period of five years from the issue of the faculty with the opportunity to return to the court before the expiry of the faculty to seek an extension on the presentation of a worked up plan for Phase 2.

The Chancellor granted a faculty for the first phase of the work to be completed within five years, with leave for the petitioner to apply in five years’ time for an extension of the faculty to authorise the second phase. [Re St. Thomas the Martyr Newcastle upon Tyne [2023] ECC New 6] [Top of section] [Top of post]

Post updated 30 January 2024 at 16:35. 

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Ecclesiastical court judgments – January (I)" in Law & Religion UK, 31 January 2024,

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