Permissions & Approvals

Permissions & Approvals #

Dragging bell along aisle

Over 90% of the 7000 towers with 3 or more bells hung for full circle change ringing are in a Church of England Church, the remainder being owned by other churches, trusts, local authorities or privately whether in the UK or overseas. This means that bell ringers embarking on a bell project must act in conjunction with others who own and have responsibility for the tower and installation. Other formal permissions and approvals required will depend on ownership and location, but also factors such as the heritage status of the tower and bells. These notes therefore need to be used in conjunction with the relevant laws and requirements that may be applicable in the UK or elsewhere. This is discussed further in Belfry Upkeep.

Church of England Towers #

In the Church of England, it is the Incumbent, Church Wardens and PCC who first have to agree to any work on a bell installation in the tower. The Project Team have a responsibility to work closely with them, ensuring a good working relationship. Without this, the project may fail.

Permission for anything other than routine maintenance and certainly for more major bell projects, must be obtained according to the “Faculty Jurisdiction” process. Minor maintenance, as included in “List A” of the process, may be undertaken without higher levels of permission. Other relatively minor work, as in “List B”, must be approved by the Archdeacon. A useful PDF guide to the application of Lists A and B is provided here. More substantial projects will require a full Faculty application via the Diocesan Registrar to the Chancellor of the Diocese concerned. Most dioceses now have an online system accessed by specific parish officers.

A Faculty will be granted legally by the Diocesan Chancellor, a judge appointed by the Bishop. The Faculty application comprises a set of documents about the project proposed along with information about the church. The application will be reviewed by the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC). A key role is that of the Diocesan Bells Advisor, whose primary role is to advise the DAC for the Chancellor.

The process for getting a Faculty may be lengthy, but many churches will have experience of applying for a Faculty and each diocese will have their own guidance on their website.

Being a legal process there can be significant financial penalties for individuals held responsible for not following the requirements. Albeit rare, an example of this occurred in Michaelchurch Escley in Herefordshire, see here.

Towers Elsewhere #

Outside the Church of England and also for English Cathedrals, project approval processes are different. It will be the relevant owning authority who will advise on the processes that are used to make their decisions on a proposed project, as discussed here.

Other Permissions and Approvals #

As explained on the Churchcare website, secular and amenity organisations must be consulted, especially when listed buildings and contents may be involved. These organisations may impose conditions about how a project can proceed, for example that certain historic materials are left in place. In such cases, it must be ensured that any compromises negotiated and agreed will not adversely affect the outcome of the whole project.

Part of the initial planning will therefore involve finding out who has to give agreement and for what. Ascertaining their perspectives and identifying the points that they are likely to raise may smooth planning and getting agreement, by having answers to likely questions. Find out how each organisation operates – some will be willing to have informal discussions so make use of these, while others may operate a more formal process that does not allow informal contacts.

Little if any work can go ahead before all agreements are in place. In some instances, one organisation will only commit after one or more other specific agreements are finalised.

Planning Permission #

This is not normally required when the external appearance of a church will remain unchanged. See here. However, if the project entails, for example, extension to the building or changes to windows or doorways, then local authority planning permission is likely to be required.

This is not likely to be required for a church that is covered by the Ecclesiastical Exemption.

Miscellaneous Permissions #

  • Work such as the installation of new mains services (for example electricity and water) may involve not only the suppliers but permissions from other landowners if other property is to be affected.
  • Depending on the location of the tower, there may be a need for road closures or the imposition of temporary parking restrictions during certain phases of the work to enable large vehicles to access the tower. This will require permission from the relevant local authority. Access may also be required to adjacent property if space around the building is constrained.
  • If the tower is adjacent to neighbours who will be sensitive to unusual noise or traffic, then it is polite to warn them and take advice on their requirements. Examples could include schools (especially in exam seasons), hospitals, care homes or very sensitive commercial premises. It is worthwhile keeping on good terms with them by accommodating their interests!

Image Credits #

TitleBell project at Great Malvern Priory © Simon Mellor

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Disclaimer #

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, neither contributors nor the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers can accept responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any activities undertaken based on the information provided.

Version 1.1, August 2023

© 2023 Central Council of Church Bell Ringers