Step 2 - Do Your Research - Conservation & Listed Buildings Pathway


Is your building listed? You can find out if your building is listed by contacting Conservation, by visiting your local library or by searching the National Heritage List for:

It is important to remember that that the extent of listing may extend beyond the host building to walls, railings, memorials and even detached buildings, such as Sunday schools and halls.  Please contact the Conservation Team for clarification on what is covered by the legislation. Also, click here for clarification on what the three different grades of listing represent.  

Is your church in a Conservation Area? You can find out if your building is in a conservation area by contacting the Connexional Conservation Officer or the Planning Department at your Local Planning Authority.  Conservation Plans for your area may be found online and will explain the reason for designation, its boundaries and may include detail on the contribution of your church to the character of the area.

Is your building on the Heritage ‘At Risk’ Register? On a Scheduled Ancient Monument? Or within a World Heritage Site?  Again, the Connexional Conservation Officer can provide information on designation status or you can consult the National Heritage Lists referenced in the first paragraph above.

Any work to your church cannot be undertaken until you have obtained the relevant permissions, either from the church or secular planning authorities. To establish what permissions are required you should speak to the Connexional Conservation Officer. This can include permission to carry out repairs, so again do contact Conservation if you are unsure what permission may be required.

Any works of alteration or extension that would affect its character as a building of special architectural and historic interest requires listed building approval. The Methodist Church operates the Ecclesiastical Exemption under the relevant legislation for England, Wales and Scotland. Consequently, it administers its own system of control for listed building approval and as a result we are exempt from having to obtain listed building consent from the local planning authority. 

Equally if you intend to carry out external works, which are a material change, to your unlisted church in a Conservation Area, you should provide the Connexional Conservation Officer with details as you will require Connexional consent for these works, in addition to any planning permissions. Again the Conservation Team can advise further.

You should then look to understand the character of your building or area and what is significant. A good place to start is the list description which exists for all listed buildings, and/or the Conservation Area Management Plan which can be found online. Reasons for designating our churches can also be found on the Historic England Places of Worship, Listing Selection Guide.   For more on the historical background, chronology and development of non-conformist places of worship see this useful guidance note.  

It is important that you develop a project that respects and works with the architectural, archaeological, artistic and historic interest, or significance, of your church. We should look to minimise harm to this significance, including any harm caused to the church’s setting, and the best way to do this is to outline the significance in a Statement of Significance. More information and examples of these Statements can be found at Listed Building Guidance Notes.

Our churches have undergone constant change as they respond to liturgical changes through the years. This maybe minor adaptation to introduce new facilities or radical re-ordering schemes. This evolution does not stop once the building is listed, and indeed we wish to manage, not prevent, change which allows our buildings to cater for 21st century missional needs. The Statement of Significance guides us in this process and highlights those areas of high significance where change should be avoided. This information will help to put your proposals in context and enable decision-makers and advisory bodies to understand the impact of what you want to achieve. It may also help them to suggest alternative, less damaging, ways to meet your needs.

A Statement of Significance is a living document, and should be updated to reflect changing perceptions to those items of significance over time. It is also important to remember that whilst you may need an architect to help you write your Statement, those who value the place should also input and take ownership of the document. Your church may be significant because of the way it brings a community together, and explaining how your community values the place of worship will be helpful when you’re having discussions with external bodies who are unfamiliar with the building or its users.

However old your building is, it will help to research and assess the following:

  • The architectural and historic interest of the building
  • The aesthetic qualities and interest of its design and character
  • Its archaeological interest
  • The fabric - in other words, the materials used to build it
  • The furnishings - identifying the age, rarity and quality of the internal furnishings and fittings
  • The building’s footprint, including its external composition and internal plan form
  • Its spatial qualities and decorative schemes

Where the building is by a well-known architect, you may find it useful to compare it with other examples of their work. This may show whether your building is typical of their work or has unusual features. It's also often helpful to set the building in a regional and/or national context (for example if it's an unusual building or one of a series of buildings with similar qualities).

Your Statement of Need is a document that helps you explain your proposal having regard to the Statement of Significance and the impact of your proposed changes. It should set out why you think your needs cannot be met without making changes to your church building and why you think the proposed changes are necessary to assist you in your worship and mission. Reasons can include liturgical changes, the creation of a more welcoming and accessible building, the need for greater flexibility and greater use by secular or community groups. More information and examples of these Statements can be found at Listed Building Guidance Notes.

Some major churches are of such complexity and significance, or the impact of the proposed project so large and controversial, that Statements of Significance and Needs may not be sufficient. In which case you should consider writing a Conservation Plan.

Listed building approval is administered through the Methodist Church’s online consent system, and you will often be asked to raise a project for any works to a listed building if it meets the criteria set out in Section 98 of the Standing Orders.  If this applies you will need listed building approval (we refer to this as A Section 98 Listed Building Approval) which is issued once you application has been processed in accordance with the process outlined in the Standing Order and any other Code of Practice such as this one. Your project can not start until a Section 98 has been issued. Failure to comply with this is Enforceable (SO 985) and would constitute a breach of trust. The Methodist Church’s listed building approval process is set out here.  

It is strongly recommended that all listed building applications are discussed with the Connexional Conservation Officer before submission, and preferably at the earliest opportunity during the development of your project. We can provide a basic overview of the process and can guide you as to any other permissions required which may need to run parallel, such as planning permission. We can also advise on consultation requirements which may need to be built into your project timetable. Flow diagrams, illustrating the process of obtaining listed building approval can be found here. We also update the Conservation pages of the Methodist Church website with current funding and training opportunities which you may find useful.

Certain applications may need to be referred to the Listed Buildings Advisory Committee (LBAC) and the Connexional Conservation Officer can confirm if this is the case for your project. Further details on the role, function and current membership of the Committee can be found here.

Whilst our Historic Places of Worship are predominantly Victorian buildings we do have examples from several historic periods. Consequently, applications for change to all our buildings are subject to consultation with more than one, if not all, national amenity societies. Statutory bodies are also consulted. Depending on the scope of the works we try and encourage early contact and discussion with them to help establish what that body or society considers to be important about the building. This consultation is administered by the Connexional Conservation Officer who can advise the church as and when this is required.  

If you are researching available funding then a good place to start is the Heritage Funding Database, details are here.  Guidance notes on how to make your Historic Building meet the Net Zero Targets see here.

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