The Representative Body of the Church in Wales was created at disestablishment to hold most of the Church’s property together with its investments including clergy pensions (the Constitution: Chapter III, Section 20). Some of the Church’s property is also vested in Diocesan Trusts.
Any decision affecting the title of Church property (sales, lettings, sharing etc), unless the property is vested in the Diocesan Trust, must be taken with the approval of the Property Committee of the Representative Body. This Committee meets four times each year and includes members from each of the Dioceses. It is essential that no binding discussions relating to Church property should be undertaken by a parish representative with outside individuals or bodies without the express approval of the Property Committee or the Diocesan Trust as applicable.
The Representative Body employs a number of officers based at the Provincial Office who coordinate property transactions and provide advice to Parishes. The Property Services Department can be contacted on 029 2034 8200 or at email@example.com
Any property transactions are governed by Charity Commission rules to obtain best value through open marketing and the advice of a suitably qualified surveyor. The Representative Body maintains a list of such persons and these will be engaged as necessary. It is a trustee duty to be able to demonstrate that independent professional advice has been obtained.
Whilst parishes sometimes have professionally qualified members who can advise the Parochial Church Council, the Representative Body’s trustee role frequently makes the direct employment of such individuals very difficult, especially if they are no longer in practice and do not carry professional indemnity insurance cover. Where there is no conflict of interest, each case will be considered upon its merits. The Representative Body appreciates the skill and experience of such people and is concerned to make clear that it is the aforementioned considerations and not lack of appreciation which gives rise to such caution.
The Property Services Department of the Representative Body seeks to provide advice and guidance on any property issues. A number of guidance and policy documents have been produced and are referred to in this section. They are available on the Church in Wales website: http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/resources/property/ Printed copies are available on request. Guidance is regularly reviewed so do check that you have the most up-to-date version.
This Chapter has been organised in two sections. The first seeks to set out the key issues for each type of property owned by the Church. The second section deals with topics of relevance to all types of property and the work of parishes in caring for property.
1. Types of Property
- Ownership and Management
Almost every church building is vested in the Representative Body. Each Parochial Church Council is responsible, under the Constitution, for the repair, maintenance and management of each church under its care (the Constitution: Church Fabric Regulations Section 1).
- Quinquennial Inspections
Within each Diocese there is a Churches and Pastoral Committee. This Committee is responsible (the Constitution: Chapter IV, Section 17) for assisting parishes to arrange the Quinquennial Inspection of Churches. The Committee keeps a list of suitably qualified architects and surveyors to inspect churches and arranges such inspections on a five yearly basis. Please contact your Diocesan Office if you have any queries about the inspections process.
The architect or surveyor completes a standard form of report, providing a schedule of recommended works in order of priority. In order to keep the costs of this scheme under control, parishes are requested to provide sound ladders and other means of access to make the inspection as effective as possible.
These inspections provide a vital framework for the management of the church building. As far as possible, the recommendations should be effected in the agreed order of priority during the subsequent five year period as required by the Constitution (the Church Fabric Regulations). Works will be subject to Faculty procedure as outlined at 1A.iii below.
Works must be overseen by a suitably qualified and experienced person and it is generally recommended that the Inspecting architect or surveyor be retained to oversee subsequent works.
A Faculty is an ecclesiastical licence which gives permission to undertake works. It is fundamentally the Church’s system for approving and monitoring work to its churches and churchyards.
A Faculty must be obtained for most work to Churches. It is obtained by making a petition (or application) to the Diocesan Chancellor, who acts in a judicial capacity in deciding whether a faculty should be granted. In considering a petition, the Chancellor considers the advice of the Diocesan Advisory Committee (or DAC) and any other advice and representations.
This DAC is obliged to consider all petitions as well as coordinating advice and comments from a number of external organisations (Cadw, amenity societies, Local Authorities etc) and provides advice to the Chancellor. The DAC consists of volunteer specialists in a variety of church building and contents matters and is served by an employed Secretary.
The DAC Secretary in each Diocese will advise whether a Faculty might be required for a particular piece of work and on the detailed procedures including forms and required information.
The Chancellor also takes the advice of the Cathedrals and Churches Commission on Cathedrals and significant church proposals. This Commission is a provincial committee and consists of leading experts on places of worship in Wales as well as specialist advisors on particular topics.
More details of the Faculty Procedure are set out in the Guidance Note: Faculty Procedures and Ecclesiastical Exemption.
- Designations and Permissions
Property in the United Kingdom is subject to planning law and a raft of designations to protect property. In addition to the Faculty Procedure, Churches are subject to these in varying ways.
Any work to a church or building which affects the external character of the building or involves a material change of use will usually require Planning Permission from the Local Authority. Faculty procedure does not replace the need for Planning Permission and advice should be sought from your Local Authority. Examples of work that would need planning permission (in addition to faculty) would be extensions of churches or creating a new internal area to be occupied for a new use.
Many churches are Listed Buildings or lie within Conservation Areas. The decision to list a building is taken through the Local Authority with the advice of Cadw (the Welsh Assembly Government’s Heritage Division). Works to Listed Buildings usually require Listed Building Consent from the Local Authority but the Government has accepted that the Church’s Faculty procedure is sufficiently robust to allow the Church to be exempt from this consent (this concession is known as Ecclesiastical Exemption). It should be remembered that the faculty procedure is still a statutory process when dealing with applications relating to Listed Buildings or those in Conservation Areas and not simply an internal church system.
Similarly, buildings lying within a Conservation Area (though not necessarily Listed) will require Conservation Area Consent from the Local Authority. This is to maintain the character of a Conservation Area. The Faculty procedure also exempts churches from the need to seek this consent.
Building works will often require Building Regulations approval to ensure proper standards of work and your professional advisor can explain this procedure.
Further details of the Ecclesiastical Exemption and the Faculty Process can be found in the Guidance Note: Faculty Procedures and Ecclesiastical Exemption.
- Logbook, Terrier and Inventories
The Log Book, Terrier and Inventory are to be maintained in respect of each church or other place of worship vested in the Representative Body. These are very important documents and must be kept in a secure, dry place. It is essential that these documents are kept up to date, including the returns to the Representative Body.
A loose-leaf format has been adopted in order that the last quinquennial inspection report and any plans may be attached, together with details of Faculties. A careful record of work undertaken on the church should be maintained. It is essential that this document is available for inspection by the Archdeacon as required. It will prove invaluable for meeting the requirement to check and inspect church plate, etc, at the time of a vacancy and to monitor movement of items between churches. It is also a useful source of information for insurance and valuation purposes.
A duplicate of the Logbook, Terrier and Inventory should be sent to the Representative Body who keep a library of all of these for the Province.
The Contents of a church are generally owned by the Representative Body. A faculty must be obtained for any changes to contents including disposal, relocation to another church etc.
The permission of the Representative Body must be obtained for any sale or other disposal of contents and a separate guidance note is available in respect of this. Guidance Note: Church Redundancy process incl. Disposal of Church Contents.
Proceeds of sale will generally be made available by the Representative Body to the Parish for charitable church purposes in the Parish.
Sale of contents should be done openly and publicly to ensure best value is obtained.
- Proceeds of Sales and Letting
As the owner of each church, the Representative Body (through the Governing Body) has established rules for the distribution of proceeds of sale or letting of churches (see next subsection and the Church Sales Regulations).
- Closure and Redundancy
From time to time, Parishes conclude that they can no longer continue their mission and ministry in a particular church and they seek the permission of the Bishop to close a church. This is probably the most difficult decision a parish will ever make and takes much careful consideration and prayer. The Guidance Note: Appraising future church buildings needs may assist in this process.
Once a decision to close is taken, various detailed work takes place to organise contents etc and once concluded the Bishop declares the Church redundant. At the declaration of redundancy, responsibility for management of the Church reverts to the Representative Body. Churchyards attaching to a closed church remain in the care of the PCC even after redundancy.
Arrangements for the sale of a redundant Church are made by the Representative Body which will seek to dispose of the building for the best value.
Distribution of proceeds of sale are governed by the Church Sales Regulations of the Constitution (Volume II, section 2). In summary, after costs of sale, net proceeds can be made available to Parishes to adapt or provide another place of worship. 10% of the proceeds are retained by the Representative Body to help defray the costs of unsaleable redundant churches and sites.
Detailed guidance on the closure and redundancy process is available from the Representative Body. See Guidance Note: Church Redundancy process incl. Disposal of Church Contents
Arrangements for the Insurance of Churches are dealt with in Section 2 A below.
- Use by third parties
Increasingly, Parishes are looking to use church buildings for a wide variety of activities. Where these are organised directly under the control of the PCC there are few issues beyond ensuring activities are undertaken safely and appropriately. See Guidance Note: Wider/Community Use of Churches and Church Halls.
Where third parties such as community groups use the church, they should provide evidence of their public liability insurance cover to indemnify the church against claims.
Use of the church by such groups should be on the same basis as use of halls as detailed in Section C below.
Permanent occupation of part or all of a church must be arranged through a formal lease issued by the Representative Body.
Churchyards are generally owned by the Representative Body and are, like churches, maintained by each PCC. The Representative Body has published a key policy and guidance note on this issue. See Policy and Guidance: Management of Churchyards including trees.
- Burial regulations
Many churchyards provide space for burial or interment of cremated remains. Church burial grounds are governed by the Welsh Church (Burial Grounds) Act 1945. This Act places a duty on the Church to maintain such burial grounds in ‘decent order’ and to bury anybody from the community regardless of membership or belief (and provided there is space).
Gravestones and memorials are erected by the families of the deceased and they have the primary duty to maintain and repair them. However, the Church must ensure its churchyards are reasonably safe and procedures for monitoring and managing hazards must be developed.
- Maintenance and Health and Safety
PCCs should ensure that Churchyards are well maintained and reasonably safe. They are places which the public are invited to access and careful risk assessments should be made.
Maintenance is invariably undertaken by volunteers. PCCs should ensure such volunteers are capable of undertaking the necessary tasks and that any equipment they use is in good order and suitable for the task.
Trees should be professionally checked for safety and health on a regular basis. Churchyard trees can be very ancient and may be protected by Tree Preservation Orders or under Conservation Area arrangements. You should consult the Local Authority and Archdeacon before embarking on tree work.
Health and Safety is explored further in Section 2 D below.
Faculty procedures apply to churchyards as well as churches.
In relation to churchyards, the Constitution includes a standard specification for memorials which if complied with will mean only the incumbent’s permission is required. Non standard memorials require a faculty. A standard application form for memorials should be used as provided by the Representative Body Publications Department (Form No 1). There is also an application form for alterations to inscriptions on existing memorials (Form No 2).
Grave space can only be reserved for a particular person if a faculty is granted. Chancellors will only agree to the reservation of a grave space in exceptional cases.
Within churchyards, buildings that are separate from the church will not be covered by Ecclesiastical Exemption so will require planning and/or listed building consent as well as a faculty.
Any works to trees require the consent of the Archdeacon.
- Churchyard Walls
Churchyard walls should be included in the Quinquennial Architect’s inspection and any necessary repairs and maintenance should be scheduled accordingly. If they fail boundary walls can cause major difficulties for neighbours and the consequences can be very costly. The Representative Body holds some limited funds to help with emergency cases.
- Churchyards attached to redundant churches
Churchyards attaching to a closed church remain in the care of the PCC even after redundancy. There may often be space for future burials despite the church being closed. Similarly, closed churchyards (that is, those that are full) remain the responsibility of the PCC.
Church Halls vary in their ownership. Some are held by the Representative Body outright whilst others will be owned by the Diocesan Trust for the Parish. Sometimes ownership is vested in local trustees. It is worth checking the situation with the Representative Body so you are aware of the ownership of your particular hall.
Church Halls are the responsibility of each individual PCC. It is sensible to maintain separate accounts for Church Halls to record income and expenditure and ensure the building is properly maintained.
There is no Constitutional requirement for Quinquennial Inspection of Church Halls, but PCCs must ensure that there is a proper process for identifying, planning and managing the maintenance of these buildings. Some Dioceses provide assistance with the preparation of Quinquennial Inspection reports but in all cases a five yearly survey by a qualified architect or surveyor is very strongly recommended.
Church Halls are not governed by faculty procedures and are subject to consent procedures as with any other secular building.
The Representative Body, if it is the owner, will need to be consulted on major schemes of alteration.
Halls should be available for use by the widest cross section of the Community. Use should not grant any permanent rights in the building and should be based on temporary hire of facilities. See Guidance Note: Wider/Community Use of Churches and Church Halls.
A sample hall letting agreement is available from the Representative Body.
Users of the hall should indemnify the Church against claims by holding appropriate public liability insurance cover.
- Proceeds of Sale
Generally, the proceeds of sale of any church hall vested in the Representative Body or Diocesan Trust will be available for charitable church purposes in the Parish. Sometimes, the original gift of the hall limited the use of proceeds to ‘church hall purposes only’ or some other specific and limited purpose. The Representative Body’s Legal Department can advise.
Parsonages and Curates’ Houses
The management of parsonages and curates’ houses is the responsibility of the Parsonage Board in each diocese. The Board will decide the strategy and priorities for the acquisition, disposal, repair and maintenance of the Parsonages in its area.
Each Board is served by a Diocesan Inspector for parsonages, employed by the Representative Body, who will organise the work agreed by the Board.
The detailed arrangements for Parsonages are set out in Chapter VII of the Constitution and explained by Guidelines for Clerics issued by each Diocese. Please refer also to the Parsonage Advice Handbook in your Diocese.
Each diocese sets aside an agreed budget for repairs in a particular year. These will be planned by the Inspector and approved by the Parsonage Board.
Incumbents are responsible for interior decorations and garden maintenance. Please consult your Diocesan Inspector over assistance with work that may involve working at height or be hazardous.
Improvements are funded from the proceeds of sale of parsonages and parsonage land; such proceeds can only be used for this purpose. The Improvement Fund for each Diocese is administered by the Representative Body in close cooperation with the Diocese.
- Parsonage houses held for the benefit of Parishes
Where a house is held by the Representative Body in trust for the benefit of a parish it may be used to house a cleric in the Parish. In this situation the house is accepted into the Parsonage Board Scheme and repairs are undertaken and financed in the same way as for any other parsonage.
Improvements by their nature increase the value of a property and thus for this type of property can be financed either directly by the Parish, or via the Improvement Fund as a loan or as a share in the future sale proceeds of the property. This would be a matter for agreement when improvements are contemplated.
Where property held for the benefit of a Parish is not used as a parsonage or curate’s house it is often let. See Section 1 E below for further information.
The Representative Body organises the insurance cover for all Parsonages although cover for contents is the responsibility of the Incumbent. See Section 2 A below.
During a vacancy in a benefice, the Parsonage Board may decide to let the house. This not only ensures the house is occupied and costs reduced but the net rental income is used to offset the repair costs of parsonages.
Lettings will generally only be contemplated where the house is unlikely to be required for 6-12 months.
Lettings are overseen by the Representative Body Property Services department (the Representative Body must sign the tenancy as owner) with external agents used to find a suitable tenant.
PCCs are asked to ‘keep an eye’ on empty properties during a vacancy (see below). Please discuss arrangements during a vacancy with your Diocesan Inspector.
- Parish Responsibilities
The PCC has few responsibilities for a house, but is expected to ensure the house is secure and unlikely to suffer pipe leaks etc and is well aired to prevent damp during periods when the house is empty. The PCC should also keep the grounds tidy during a vacancy.
PCCs will often assist an Incumbent with the costs of internal decorations and assist the Parsonage Board with any internal cleaning etc to put the property into sound condition before a new incumbent takes occupation.
Property held for the Benefit of Parishes incl. Trusts
Some property is owned by the Representative Body but held for the benefit of a particular parish. Whilst usually the management of the property will be organised by the Parish itself any agreement relating to occupation or ownership must be issued by the Representative Body. Sometimes such property is used to house a cleric and this is specifically covered in Section 1 D above.
The Representative Body holds the title deeds to the property and this arrangement means that title to the property does not have to be changed every time the PCC changes.
The Representative Body also acts as Trustee for bequests and gifts of money where the donor wishes a particular parish to benefit. Such money can only be used for the purposes stipulated by the donor and the Representative Body’s Legal Department should be consulted before any financial commitments are made to check that the proposed purposes are allowable.
Parishes should ensure that any property they own is properly managed. Regular inspection of property is crucial to ensure proper planning of repairs and improvements.
For residential property, an annual gas safety inspection must be carried out by a qualified person (registered on the Gas Safe Register) and electrical systems should be checked for safety regularly by an NICEIC qualified electrician.
Such property is often let to third parties. Any agreement should be issued by the Representative Body as owner. Charity Commission principles of best value apply to such lettings.
Useful guidance on the legal repair responsibilities for landlord and tenants of residential property is available from http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/housing/pdf/138307.pdf
The Parish will receive any net rents (after costs of letting etc).
- Proceeds of Sale
As such property is held for the benefit of the Parish, the Parish will benefit should the property be sold (after costs of sale and any loans repaid). The use to which proceeds of sale can be put will vary depending on the title to the property. Often the original donor will have designated purposes for the property. The Property Services Department of the Representative Body should be consulted at an early stage.
Generally, proceeds of sale will be held by the Representative Body as trustee until such time as the money is claimed by the Parish for an appropriate use. The proceeds of sale will be held in the Representative Body Common Investment Fund and interest added to the balance. Any requests for payments will need to be supported by appropriate documentary evidence of costs.
All glebe is held by the Representative Body for the benefit of the whole church. A Parish will be consulted on significant proposals affecting glebe within the parish.
- Proceeds of Sale
Any proceeds of sale of glebe are invested by the Representative Body and the interest on this fund is used to give grants to churches for repair, modification or provision. Details of this grant scheme are available from the Property Services department.
Any sales are conducted to achieve best value and are conducted openly through local agents. It is vital to achieve the best price to maximise the money available for grants and this will sometimes mean seeking planning permission to develop land.
Where a local needs housing development can be shown to be the best value option for sale these can be negotiated. See Policy Note: Local Needs Housing.
Glebe is managed centrally by the Representative Body through a number of local land agents.
- Parish or Community Use of Glebe
PCCs sometimes request use of glebe for local purposes. Glebe will not generally be used by Parishes for other purposes other than on full market terms. To do so would be to prevent the wider Province from benefiting from the proceeds by reducing the funds available for church repair grants. There can often be great local pressure to allow the glebe to be used for local purposes. When asked to consider such uses, e.g sports field, the Representative Body must also consider the long term potential of the land for development. Clearly, it would be pastorally difficult to terminate a community use in favour of development or sale so such an agreement needs to be carefully considered. Even a temporary permission for community use can blight future development potential.
Parishes sometimes request use of glebe to extend graveyards. The extension of graveyards is generally against the policy of the Representative Body unless sufficient financial support is in place to maintain the area. The creation of a new area for burials can be a significant burden on parish funds, and a refual to extend a graveyard is generally in the parish’s best interests. If such an area of glebe is so required, it has been the policy of the Representative Body to sell the land to the Parish or Community at market value.
2. General Topics
Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) are generally the insurers for all church matters. They are the leading insurers for ecclesiastical property and have wide ranging specialist knowledge and expertise. However, their cover is subject to periodic review and assessment by the Representative Body to test competitiveness.
EIG can be contacted at www.ecclesiastical.com Tel: 0845 777 3322 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The EIG policy is called Parishguard and includes many features as standard for which some insurers charge an additional premium. Cover includes property damage, loss of income following an insured event, theft by Church officials, public liability, employers’ liability and more.
The policy is a Group Scheme. This means that all the churches (c.1400 buildings) are valued and a premium established for each. This is then collected from Parishes by the Diocese.
Prior to the Group Scheme each parish arranged its insurance directly with the EIG. This led to variations in sums insured and did not achieve a bulk discount. As overall owner of the buildings, the Representative Body has a duty to ensure adequate insurance arrangements and decided a standard form of cover should be adopted across all its churches.
In the autumn each year, the renewal is discussed at a meeting between EIG and the Representative Body. This meeting looks at claims records and any new policy terms. A rate for the coming year is agreed for the premium and an appropriate indexation figure for sums insured is established.
Each diocese is then notified of the premium for each individual church.
Each Parish is contacted directly by EIG with details of policies and any relevant guidance including necessary certificates.
Each Parish should contact the EIG directly in the event of a claim and negotiate settlements directly with the Insurers. The Property Services Department will try to assist with claims if they prove difficult to settle.
The Ecclesiastical Insurance Group is owned by the All Churches Trust. This trust distributes some of the profits of the EIG as grants to churches, Dioceses and the Representative Body.
- Church Halls
Church Halls should be insured directly by each Parish through the EIG Hallguard policy. This policy provides comprehensive church hall insurance cover including property damage, loss of money, loss of income following an insured event, liability and personal accident cover.
Insurance of parsonages and curates house is generally arranged directly by the Representative Body. Insurance of parish owned property will generally be arranged directly by the Parish.
It is important to check that all the property for which you have responsibility is insured and that advice is obtained on the suitability of cover.
Undertaking Building Work
Parishes will often get involved in building works and other similar projects. Detailed guidance on project management is available from the Representative Body. See Guidance: Managing Church Building Projects.
The key aspects to arranging and managing building works are:
- Have a clear and agreed project vision of what you are seeking to do that is understood and shared with the PCC;
- Establish a Project Team: be clear about who does what and how they will report to the PCC;
- Engage professionals: it is vital to use professional help. Whilst this is a cost it will ensure proper standards and give you protection should things go wrong. Professionals should be engaged with a clear written brief and written contract of engagement. Check the professional has valid Professional Indemnity Insurance cover in place;
- Safety: managing safety is critical in all projects. You must take advice on how to meet your legal obligations (see Health and Safety Section 2D below);
- Feasibility Studies and Business Plans: for larger projects assess the feasibility of your project carefully and establish a business plan for how the project will operate. Grant funders will need this and it will help you to get your project right;
- Permissions and Consents: Allow plenty of time to obtain necessary permissions;
- Insurance: inform the insurance company of works before they start;
- Grants: Applications for grants take time so do not underestimate this aspect. Many applications require countersignature by the Representative Body so please allow sufficient time for this. The Representative Body will consider such applications carefully (see Guidance Note: Grant Funding for Community Projects in Church Buildings);
- Litigation/Disputes: Should things go wrong contact the Representative Body Legal Department as soon as possible. They can advise on appropriate action to protect your position.
The Bench of Bishops has established a set of ten principles for the church and these have been endorsed by the Governing Body:
“We believe in the conservation of the Earth and its resources as God’s precious creation. The Church should strive to put this belief into action by:
- Seeking to reduce energy use in all our buildings
- Being open to renewable energy solutions such as solar power and wind turbines on our property
- Encouraging the use of less polluting forms of transport wherever possible particularly walking and cycling
- Developing wildlife conservation schemes in our churchyards
- Using Fair Trade, environment and animal friendly products wherever possible
- Reducing waste by composting and recycling as much of it as possible
- Reducing paper usage (and then only recycled paper)
- Considering the environmental impact of our meetings and how we can reduce that impact
- Disseminating information on good practice and where to obtain advice and help on environmental issues
- Promoting sustainability through our preaching and teaching and setting a good example.”
- Green Guide
A guide has been produced to help you consider appropriate action to develop these principles as well as give you sources of advice. The guide also prompts you with ideas for teaching and preaching. The Church can significantly contribute to the sustaining of the environment by the example it sets. The Guide is available from the Property section of the Church in Wales website or from the Provincial Office. More of our green resources can be found at www.churchandenvironment.org.uk
Health and Safety
- General Position
In principle, we all have a duty to act reasonably. PCC members in managing their churches, churchyards and activities need to do what is reasonable to prevent an accident occurring or people coming to harm. Reasonableness is a legal judgment which ultimately can only be decided in court but you should think about issues in a common sense way to arrive at a reasonable course of action. The judgment is based on whether you knew or should have known of a foreseeable problem and whether you did something to prevent that problem.
- Insurance protection
There is extensive insurance cover for parishes (see Section 2A above) and this will protect you from claims in the event of an incident. However, no insurance can protect you from acting recklessly or fraudulently. The key is to act reasonably and in good faith.
- Management of safety
The key to acting reasonably is ensuring safety and welfare is managed. This is done through establishing clear policies, ensuring risk assessments are completed for activities and projects and people who undertake work for you show you they are competent and have safe working practices.
Excellent guidance is available from Ecclesiastical Insurance.
The Representative Body has published a guidance note on the management of contractors to ensure proper provision for safety.
A standard and simple risk assessment form is available from the Representative Body.
- Construction Safety
Building works are likely to be covered by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM). These regulations set down procedures for the planning and management of the safety issues of building projects.
You should ask your architect’s advice on whether your project is likely to fall within these Regulations and, if it does, how the regulations can be complied with.
- Fire Safety
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 has changed the way fire safety is managed in the UK. This legislation affects all non-domestic premises including churches and church halls and places an obligation on those responsible for the management of such buildings to undertake a fire risk assessment.
It is therefore the responsibility of each PCC to undertake such an assessment but this does not need to be a complicated process. In most cases, the assessment can be undertaken without the need for significant technical expertise.
A fire risk assessment consists of the following steps:
- Identify fire hazards
- Identify people at risk
- Evaluate then remove or reduce or protect from risk
- Record, plan, inform, instruct and train
- Regularly review your assessment
The Ecclesiastical Insurance Group has provided the guidance on this issue and can provide further advice at:
The Government has provided advice at www.communities.gov.uk
The key issue is that PCCs need to spend time considering fire issues in their buildings and write down and regularly review their actions and management plans.
Opening Church Buildings to the Public
Churches have been described as ‘signposts to the Gospels’ and ensuring they are open and accessible is a key priority. Churches are not just there for the regular worshipper but to give a visible sign of God’s love and the Church’s ministry to all. Too often Churches are closed outside of worship times because of concerns over security or a lack of people to welcome visitors.
The Church has published an Open Churches Toolkit in conjunction with the Churches Tourism Network Wales to give some practical tips to help Churches think about their ministry of welcome and hospitality and consider ways of pursuing an open church. The Toolkit is available from the Provincial Office at 39, Cathedral Road, Cardiff CF11 9XF.
A key message concerns insurance. It is not the policy of insurers to ask for churches to be kept locked during the day. They consider that an open church is a safer church as the presence of legitimate visitors will help to deter those with criminal intent. Clearly, valuable portable items should either be locked away or otherwise secured but your insurance is not at risk if the church is open during daylight hours.
It is estimated that around half of our churches are regularly open outside of worship and that 2 million people visit them each year. If the other half of our churches can open similarly then the scope for outreach is very significant. It is not possible to calculate the number of pilgrims or tourists who leave rejected and disappointed when they find a church to be closed – many may never return.
The Church in Wales has a moral and legal duty towards people with disabilities. It is the policy of the Church in Wales, in accordance with its Equal Opportunities Policy, not to discriminate against people with disabilities in any aspect of its life and activities.
The Church in Wales is committed to making reasonable adjustments to ensure as far as practicable:
- Equality of access for people with disabilities to participate in the full life of the Church in Wales
- Promotion of an understanding of disability as an equality issue both within the Church in Wales and in the wider community
- Equality of access to employment by the Representative Body and other employers or agencies within the Church in Wales.
Detailed guidance is available to assist parishes implement this policy called The Disability Discrimination Act – Parish Guide. This is available from the Publications department at the Provincial Office, 39 Cathedral Road, Cardiff CF11 9XF
Equal Opportunities Policy
It is the policy of the Church in Wales to promote a culture of dignity, respect and fairness for all its members. The Church in Wales recognises the gifts, talents and vocations of its lay and clergy members. The Church in Wales’s Equal Opportunities Policy Statement, which was adopted by the Governing Body in September 2010, may be found at the Church in Wales website:
Advice on potential sources of grant is available on the Provincial Website. In addition, advice can be obtained from your Diocesan Office, some of which have dedicated Stewardship and Support officers. The Property Services department is available to give general advice.
Grants generally support either heritage buildings or community based projects. The main sources of heritage building grants are the Heritage Lottery Fund (www.hlf.org.uk – In Your Area, Wales extion ), Cadw www.cadw.wales.gov.uk – help for owners section ) and the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme (www.lpwscheme.org.uk).
Community based grants are available from a variety of sources and will only support projects that provide facilities required and supported by the wider community. Each will require detailed engagement with the wider community to justify the project. These type of schemes do not fund repairs to buildings except as an essential part of providing new community facilities.
The Representative Body operates its owner grant scheme to assist with the repair of churches arising from the income from the sale of glebe land. More details can be obtained from the Property Services Department.
- Representative Body Guidance
- This site includes the latest property related guidance.
- Contact the Property Services Department who should be able to help you further.
- Church of England information
- Generally, the information provided by the Church of England will be useful and relevant. It is worth seeking clarification on aspects of law as these can differ between England and Wales.
- The most comprehensive source of advice is at www.churchcare.co.uk
- Ecclesiastical Insurance
- This site contains a large number of useful publications to help you with risk and safety management including security.
- Charity Commission
- The Charity Commission website has useful information on responsibilities of trustees and best value rules.