How do I make changes to a listed building? How do I apply for listed building approval?

Changes to Listed Buildings are encouraged and can be works of alteration or extension, such as those shown on the above image of Pilton Methodist Church (copyright Solarsense). 

Works of Repair

Some projects are not for alterations at all but are rather for “like for like” repair and maintenance works or are for such minor alterations that the scheme will not affect the architectural or historic importance of the building.  These are approved without delay, provided that the specifications are satisfactory.

Be aware that some works of repair can constitute works of alteration, for instance re-painting in a different colour or repointing using incorrect materials. The Connexional Conservation Officer can provide advice on this and will highlight any issues following inspection of the specification of works.

Works of Alteration and Extension

You will need formal listed consent to demolish a listed building or for any alterations or extensions which would affect its character as a building of architectural or historic interest. Applying for listed building consent process is very similar to the normal planning process, but as a consequence of the Ecclesiastical Exemption is dealt with through our internal system of control.

Firstly, the church should contact the Connexional Conservation Officer to talk through the suitability of your project. This may involve an onsite meeting to give you the opportunity to articulate your vision and objectives, and for the Conservation Officer to view the church. Your mission statement and aspirations should be clearly set out as this is the main driver and justification for change to your building. Historic fabric is finite and once lost is lost forever. Thus, as there is a presumption in favour of conservation any changes will need to be demonstrable and will be carefully considered.

Resources are available on the Methodist Church website to help you develop your mission objectives.

There is also a very useful toolkit produced by the Diocese of Hereford that will guide you through the development stages of your project, Crossing the Threshold.

The Methodist Church has also been working with Historic England and Cornwall Council on producing guidance to help congregations make informed decisions about how to adapt and make changes to nonconformist chapels. This guidance can be found here, and is generic advice applicable to chapels nationwide  - Methodist and Nonconformist Chapels in Cornwall

Inspirational Case Studies and other examples of interesting projects can be found here:

Submitting your application for listed building approval (Section 98)

    • The church should raise a project on the online consents system.

(Please note that listed building approval is a statutory requirement and the Section 98 decision notice is confirmation that this has been granted. The listed building approval process is integrated within the online consent process, and only when a Section 98 has been issued can conservation authorisation (Connexional authorisation) be input by the Conservation Officer on your project). 

    • You will be encouraged to liaise with a conservation accredited professional in the development of your project, which could be an architect, surveyor or structural engineer. Someone with a working knowledge of altering listed buildings who understands the process of obtaining listed building approvals, but also understands the requirements of a worshiping community. A list of such professionals in your area can be found online.

You may also need to submit the following information, but the Connexional Conservation Officer can confirm the exact requirements:

    • Statements of Significance and Statements of Need

Your professional advisor can use the Statement of Significance and Statement of Need to successfully design a scheme that conserves the significance of the building but successfully enhances and allows the long sustainability and continuation of mission. The church, with assistance from the accredited professional, should embark on understanding the architectural and historic significance of your church. Examples of both Statements can be found here

It should include some assessment of the significance, in terms of high, medium and low, of the interior and exterior of the church, including its setting. Once this is complete there should be a section on how the proposed changes impact on this significance.

In addition to the Church’s mission statement you will also need to complete a Statement of Need, which is your opportunity to set out the church’s vision and aims and to explain the needs of your worshiping community. This allows those advising and deciding on your proposals to fully understand whether the impact on the significance of the building is justifiable.

The more harm the proposed changes are likely to cause to the significance of the building, the more they will require justification in terms of the public benefits they will bring. Such benefits might include securing viable long-term use for the building, mitigating the effects of climate change or making the building more accessible. Often this need for change may result from the need to meet basic objectives, such as improved heating or new toilets and kitchens and we recognise that some new work will help enhance or better reveal the significance of your place of worship.  

If once specific proposals have been drawn up they seem likely to conflict with any aspect of the building’s significance, a detailed statement of need should be written to justify it. This should explain not only why work is necessary, but also why the need has to be addressed in the particular manner proposed. A detailed statement of need should set out:

    • What the objectives of the congregation are in proposing changes
    • What changes are necessary to achieve the objectives
    • Why the proposed works are needed now
    • What evidence there is for the stated need
    • Who will benefit from the changes
    • How the changes will affect the use of the building in the medium and long term
    • What other options have been considered and why they were rejected
    • How the harm caused by the changes has been minimised or mitigated

It is important that the church incudes as much evidence as possible to justify the changes, and should include and make reference to any consultations with interested stakeholders. If the church wishes to encourage new uses and users, then you should be specific about who these groups are and explain exactly what their requirements will be.

    • Drawings and Photographs

Clear and accurate drawings will be required in support of your application. It is advisable that these are prepared by the church’s professional advisor. To assist photocopying it would be helpful to have drawings at A3 size. All drawings, including reduced drawings, need to be fully legible when photocopied.  It is important for ‘as existing’ drawings to be supplied as well ‘as proposed’ drawings. All drawings should be fully annotated to indicate materials, method of construction and surface finishes. The ‘as proposed’ drawings need to be sufficiently detailed to be able to appreciate the full nature, extent and content of the proposed works.

The following drawings are normally required:

    • An Ordnance Survey extract, at a scale not less than 1:2500, showing the location of the building in relation to its surroundings;
    • A site plan showing the building in its context and identifying the site boundaries
    • Existing floor plans, sections and elevations, preferably at 1:50, but no smaller than 1:100
    • Proposed floor plans, sections and elevations, preferably at 1:50, but no smaller than 1:100
    • Detailed drawings may be required of doors, windows, mouldings etc. to a minimum scale of 1:20

Digital Photographs are preferred. The set of photographs should include:

    • External photographs to show the building in its setting, in the street scene, and in relation to neighbouring buildings. General views of the exterior of the building concerned are required.
    • Detailed views and close ups of any parts of the building to be altered
    • General views of the interior, including detailed views and close-ups of any parts which will be subject to alteration. It is not necessary to supply photographs of other rooms and spaces which will be totally unaffected by the proposed works.
    • Where specific items (fixtures or fittings) are proposed for removal or alteration (e.g. pews, pulpits), they should be fully photographed, so that their detailing is clear. If the application is approved, archival quality photographs and/or drawings are likely to be needed subsequently for record purposes.

What Happens Next?

Once the Connexional Conservation Officer has the relevant information they process the application for listed building approval in accordance with Standing Order 982 and the Code of Practice agreed with central government. This includes:

    • A period of consultation with statutory bodies and amenity societies  (28 days) and if necessary presentation to the Listed Buildings Advisory Committee for their advice.
    • Erection of a public notice and an advertisement in the local newspaper (if applicable).

All representations are then shared with the church, who has the option to respond and/or modify their proposals, and are encouraged to liaise with the Connexional Conservation Officer in this regard.

How will your application be assessed?

When considering whether to consent to a project for listed building works we have to adhere to our statutory duty to preserve historic church buildings, the importance of protecting features of architectural merit and historic interest and the archaeological implications of the scheme.

But we shall also consider the following:

    • The change in the worship needs of the congregation
    • Change required because of an increase or reduction in the congregation size
    • A wish to accommodate other activities within the building to help ensure its continued viability primarily as a place of worship
    • The impact of substantial structural changes, e.g. subdivision of important spaces
    • The removal or destruction of important fixtures and fittings
    • The impact on Evidential, Community, Aesthetic Value and Archaeological Interest

Once an agreed proposal is in place the Connexional Conservation Officer shall make a recommendation to the Methodist Council and a Section 98 decision notice will be written, authorised and sent to the local church. A copy of the Section 98 decision notice will be uploaded to your project, and conservation authorisation (Connexional approval) will be input on your project. 

Your project will then move to the District for final consent. The approval may be conditional and thus it is important to note and discharge these conditions before the works commence.

It is very important that the church does not start works until final consent is in place. Failure to obtain listed building approval is a serious offence and can be a breach of trust. Unapproved listed building works will be taken very seriously and may be subject to enforcement action under Standing Order 985.

If the church is unhappy with the final decision or indeed any conditions attached to the decision notice they may appeal. Please contact the Conservation Office for a copy of the Methodist Church’s appeal policy.

Please do contact the Connexional Conservation Officer by email: conservation@methodistchurch.org.uk or by telephone: 0161 235 6739 if you have any queries.

Listed Buildings 

What is the Ecclesiastical Exemption?

What is the Listed Buildings Advisory Committee?

Frequently Asked Questions

Maintenance and Repairs - Listed Places of Worship

News, Funding and Training

Listed Building Guidance Notes