Our churches are often among the most treasured of heritage buildings, both for their architectural value and as a visual record of the ecclesiastical history at the centre of many local communities. Their protection and ongoing sustainable use is important.
We encourage our members and the wider public to join in responding to this consultation:
Ecclesiastical Exemption: Public Consultation.
The Historic Environment Unit, Department for Communities has published a consultation document outlining policy proposals to remove Ecclesiastical Exemption.
Section 85(8) of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 states that all listed places of worship are exempt from the requirement to obtain Listed Building Consent for ‘the demolition, alteration or extension of an ecclesiastical building which is at the time being used for ecclesiastical purposes or would be so used but for the works’. This is known as Ecclesiastical Exemption.
In 2014, at the Minister’s request, the Department and the Historic Buildings Council for Northern Ireland undertook a review of the way in which Ecclesiastical Exemption is currently working in Northern Ireland. This review concluded that the exemption is not protecting our ecclesiastical heritage and recommended that it should be removed.
The consequence of removing the exemption is that Listed Building Consent would be required for any works involving the complete or partial demolition of a listed place of worship, or for its alteration or extension in a manner which would affect its character as building of special architectural or historic interest.
The consultation can be accessed on the DfC website here and will remain open for comment until Monday 13th June.
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