Access to Places of Worship
Historic England is committed to broadening physical and intellectual access to the historic environment. We encourage congregations to be generous in their approach to access where this can be achieved in a manner which is compatible with the special interest of the building.
In our experience, there are only rare occasions when nothing whatsoever can be done to improve or facilitate access. Simple and innovative solutions can often be found and can make a lasting difference to a building’s accessibility at its role within the local community.
In seeking to comply with legislation (the Equality Act 2010) congregations should bear in mind that its requirements relate to the accessibility of the service, not of the building. Making physical alterations to the building, therefore, is only one option.
The legislation does not override existing secular or ecclesiastical laws governing historic buildings, and the obligation is to take ‘reasonable’ measures. Decisions about alterations to improve access must, therefore, balance the benefits against the potential damage those same alterations might cause to the significance of the building.
Access audits can be a useful tool to help inform your proposals. The Building Conservation Directory contains more information on access, including access audits. The denominational advisory body may also have further information or templates suitable for your place of worship.