Consultation on Eccelesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Order 2010 (DCMS 2010)
Submission from ALGAO:England
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to this consultation. We note the limitations of the consultation in that the principle of he exemption is not under consideration, and that the proposed Order and Guidance only apply to England.
With regard to the latter, this response is from ALGAO (England) and not ALGAO (UK), although we would draw your attentions to the comments to Question 1 regarding the compatibility of processes across the UK.
1) Do you agree that the revised draft Order achieves the policy intent as outlined on pages 6-8, and that none of the other rationalisation of the Order has resulted in a substantive change in policy or provision.
We welcome the clarification of certain areas of ambiguity within the current exemption, in particular the dealing with the peculiars and special cases.
We note that the Order will only apply to England. ALGAO’s members cover the whole of the UK so we would request the compatibility of this order to the systems in place elsewhere be tested. This is especially pertinent in areas such as the Anglican Diocese of Hereford where the denominational boundaries cross the national ones.
Whilst we note the comments regarding the red and green lines of Anglican cathedral precinct, we would question whether local planning authorities are fully aware of these lines and also who has the responsibility of ensuring this information is accurate.
We note the extension of the exemption to structures within the curtilage listed in their own right. Whilst this may be sensible for tombs and other similar structures, we are concerned about application of the exemption to some of the more ‘secular’ structures such as church rooms, school rooms and boundary walls.
Our concerns over the proposed scope of the exemption arise from the increased dependency on a denomination’s systems of control. By extending the exemption to cover buildings listed in their own right, the denomination will have to ensure it has access to individuals with skill sets in working with those buildings, which may have a mainly secular function. The skills to deal with a listed school building may differ greatly from those required to conserve a table tomb, for example.
We do not necessarily consider that all denominations have, or have demonstrated a willingness to acquire, these skills. This is especially the case with the larger denominations where operation of the exemption is devolved to local level and thus too many inconsistencies and irregularities are seen.
2) Do you agree that the revised guidance and code of practice represent sound and practical guidance for the operation of denominational systems, given the need for such systems to reflect any changes to secular protection, in the interests of maintaining equivalence of protection?
We note that the new guidance draws heavily on the recently adopted English Heritage Conservation Principles; we are concerned by the fact that it also draws upon Planning Policy Statement on the Historic Environment, which is not yet adopted. Should this document be delayed or even postponed, has consideration been given to the effectiveness of this new guidance?
Additionally, the section relating to Heritage Partnership Agreements appears dependent on a principle expressed in the delayed Heritage Protection Bill, the future of which is uncertain.
We welcome the proposed involvement of Historic Environment Records with the operation of the exemption, as HERs are becoming increasingly central to the work of protecting the historic environment. We would comment however that HERs are sources of information, and it the interpretation of that information by appropriately skilled professionals that is the key element of protection and mitigation of the historic environment.
We welcome the recognition of the English Heritage and Church of England guidance notes (para 45). We would express a note of caution with the Guidance on Christian Burial Grounds, as this document emphasises the Church of England approaches that may not be wholly compatible with other denominations. We would recommend reference to the Advisory Panel on Archaeological Burials in England as well.
Annex A: Code of Practice
We consider this a sensible approach in theory, although we do have concerns over the practice. The denominations that currently operate the exemption already have their systems in place, and we would ask who has the responsibility for ensuring that these systems are robust and meet these criteria? We would not consider a ‘business as usual’ approach to any new principles to be appropriate and at the least would expect a review of current mechanisms to be carried out.
We would also ask what sanction can be made against those denominations who do not follow these principles, and in the case of large denominations operating local or regional level, how would such sanction be applied?
The Guidance calls for the key decision makers to be a ‘body’, whereas within the Church of England the decision maker is an individual: the Chancellor. This appears to be a key conflict between the new guidance the current practice within the largest denomination, and we would ask whether this is considered an issue?
Current systems of control depend heavily on voluntary expertise and advice. The proposed changes to the exemption will potentially create more areas in which the denomination will require access to expertise, so we ask what measures are in place to ensure this is provided.
This is especially pertinent with the Church of England Faculty Jurisdiction process, where the system of control is dependent on the advice of 44 Diocesan Advisory Committees and the same number of Fabric Advisory Committees. ALGAO is aware of shortfalls in the provision of archaeological advice across this system, and is concerned that these will grow. We consider there is an imbalance between the increasing role and requirements of the advice given under the exemption and the fact that this is dependent on volunteers and not paid professional advice. We believe that were denominations required to pay for advice, either as consultancy or through the appointment of appropriate staff, the quality of the advice would increase.
Whilst inferred, we would suggest that examples of best practice in the secular system are more overtly expressed in areas such as the use of technology to disseminate information and planning applications.
3) We intend to bring the revised order into force later in the year. Do you have any specific thoughts as to how long will be needed to further publicise the changes effectively, and when, therefore, the revised order should be brought into force? The Department will need to justify the length of time between the laying of the order and its coming into force.
4) Given that the specific references to churches have been removed from the draft revised Planning Policy Statement, do you agree that these have been adequately covered in the revised Ecclesiastical Exemption guidance? If not, what more could we include in the guidance to assist denominations and local authorities in making decisions about changes to church buildings?
We are concerned that without a clear statement within the new PPS, the revised Guidance may not sufficiently robust in itself. Without a headline statement in the key planning policy document to inform the application of the exemption then there is a danger of the protection of a major element of the historic environment being reduced in importance whilst at the same time being broadened in application.
We would like to see references to places of worship reinstated within PPS15. If this is not possible, then we recommend that the guidance be reinforced by stronger references to secular processes, and the need to involve secular historic environment advisors and other heritage professionals.
5) Are there any other comments you wish to make about the revised order or guidance, given that we have already consulted on the policy intent of the order on previous occasions?
We welcome the fact that it is still the case that the exemption will not apply to Scheduled Monument Consent. Given that ecclesiastical sites in use are not normally scheduled, we would not consider it appropriate for a denomination to have such an exemption.
We trust this is useful and look forwards to working with all parties in the future.
ALGAO:England Executive Committee
15 March 2010