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Additions and Extensions

Creating an addition or extension for new facilities can allow you to make fewer changes to the interior design of your place of worship. It may avoid the need for internal subdivision of space and other interior alterations. This means you may be able to preserve more of the character and fabric of the historic building.

You should check whether you need consent before carrying out any changes. You may need planning permission and building regulations approval to change the exterior of your place of worship. For listed buildings you will also need consent from your denominational advisory body, or listed building consent from the local authority if you do not belong to an exempt denomination.

Image of the National Centre for Early Music, which is a low brick extension to a former church enabling the church building itself to be used as a space without being divided.
Wherever possible, it is desirable not to subdivide the interior. At the National Centre for Early Music in York, an extension which houses kitchen, toilets, offices and other facilities has enabled the use of the former church as a single, adaptable space for various elements. © Historic England

Issues to consider

Things to think about when proposing an extension or additional new building include:

  • What options have you considered for accommodating the desired facilities within the place of worship and what were the pros and cons of each?
  • Will the wider public benefit justify the significant impact on and change to the historic building?
  • Will the benefits in terms of new facilities and space outweigh the additional maintenance costs and service requirements?
  • What changes will you need to make to the existing building in order to make the two parts work together?
  • Will the quality of the new work be equal, if not better than, that of the historic building?
  • Will the new build be linked to the existing building and, if so, how?
  • Will the building work have an impact on any archaeology (above ground or buried)?
  • Will the new build have an impact on the setting of your place of worship?

If you wish to build in a churchyard, take account of any buried archaeology and human remains. Obtaining permission can be difficult when land has human remains in situ, because relatives and other interested parties may object.

Design

Extensions will require skilled and sensitive design because of the significant effect they have on the original building’s external character.  Our New Facilities page has information on basic principles to keep in mind when designing a new addition.

We recommend that proposed designs get their influence from the identity of the existing place of worship and seek to enhance and better reveal its significance. The design should normally make clear that the extension is secondary to the original building. You can achieve this by ensuring that the extension’s location, size and external finish do not have a negative effect on the building’s setting.

You will need to give particular consideration to the point at which an extension meets existing fabric. There may be an existing or blocked doorway that provides a natural way to link the old and new structures. Historic England starts with a presumption against loss of historic fabric so you will need a strong case for any new openings.

It is possible to design new additions so that they look like a natural development of your original building. For example, you may use parts of the traditional architectural forms, roof pitches and volumes of places of worship when designing a new extension. This includes aisles, transepts, vestries and porches.

Your new design could also connect with the original building through the use of matching or complementary materials and high quality craftsmanship. This does not necessarily mean copying the original design, but reflecting elements of it in the new addition.

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