Ecclesiastical Exemption

There are five religious groups or denominations in England, all Christian, which are exempt from certain provisions of the planning acts, including the need to apply for listed building consent, for ecclesiastical buildings.

Ecclesiastical buildings are church buildings which are currently used for worship or are now vacant and have never had any other use.

The five "Exempt Denominations" are:

  1. The Church of England
  2. The Roman Catholic Church
  3. The Methodist Church
  4. The Baptist Union of Great Britain
  5. The United Reformed Church

All five groups have their own arrangements for handling changes to historic buildings which provide the same standards of protection as the secular system operated by local planning authorities.

They include advisory and decision-making bodies with expert knowledge of the history, development and use of church buildings, the liturgy of the denomination, church architecture and conservation of historic buildings and their contents.

This system is regulated by the Ecclesiastical Exemption Order 2010.

More information about the Exempt Denominations can be found in:

Under these arrangements, Historic England is consulted on certain proposals for change. The guidelines for consultation are the same for each denominational procedure, except that for Church of England Cathedrals, which are handled slightly differently.

In addition to its formal role in advising on applications, Historic England welcomes the opportunity to be involved in pre-application discussion when relevant works are being contemplated.