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Major improvements in the arrangements for protecting historic church buildings have been announced by National He...
Major improvements in the arrangements for protecting historic church buildings have been announced by National Heritage Secretary Peter Brooke and Welsh Secretary John Redwood.

They have used their powers to bring religious bodies within the normal secular controls over both internal and external works to their listed buildings - unless the bodies have an approved control system of their own which conforms with the government's code of practice.

Those bodies which have, or are about to adopt, approved control systems, and will therefore continue to enjoy exemption from listed building control, are:

the Church of England; the Church in Wales; the Roman Catholic Church; the Methodist Church; the Baptist Union of Great Britain; the Baptist Union of Wales and the United Reformed Church.

All other religious bodies will in future be subject to normal listed building and conservation area controls.

They will need to apply to the local planning authority, in the same way as other owners of historic buildings, for consent to alter, extend or demolish a listed church or associated building.

The order laid under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 follows extensive consultation with interested organisations on the detailed arrangements since the Secretaries of State announced their intention to change the rules.

Mr Brooke said:

'The order means that for the first time the exemption of religious bodies from the normal controls will be properly defined and regulated.

'In future, the 'ecclesiastical exemption' will be retained only by bodies which operate systems of control which satisfy our code of practice. We shall review how these systems have operated after two years.

'This is far more than a gentlemen's agreement, and these church bodies are well aware that if their systems appear not to be producing acceptable results the exemption could be withdrawn either wholly or in particular cases.'

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