Statements of Significance and Need
In essence, these Statements are required wherever proposed works will involve changes to a listed building.
If you are looking after a listed church and are planning any significant work to it (such as reordering) that would require a Faculty, you may need to produce a Statement of Significance, which focuses on the historic and architectural significance of your building, and a Statement of Need, which needs to explain why exactly the works are being proposed and what they are going to achieve. Please get in touch with the DAC secretary as early as possible to discuss your project and to find out whether you need to produce the statements.
These statements, alongside other documents, will be considered by the DAC and a number of other bodies that will comment on the proposals and assess their feasibility. If you are planning alterations to the building that would affect historic fabric of a listed building, for example introduction of a meeting area or a disabled toilet which will involve removal of existing furniture or parts of the building, you need to present a strong case. The critical question that will be asked when your project will be assessed by the DAC and the consultees is whether the benefits resulting from your proposal will outweigh the harm to the building. It is useful to keep this question in mind as you are writing your statements.
It is a good idea to follow the templates for the statements produced by the Church Buildings Council. The forms, as well as advice on producing these documents, can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/resources/churchcare/advice-and-guidance-church-buildings/statements-significance-and-needs.
In addition to the official guidance, here are some more useful tips:
• Make sure you read each heading and explanatory notes underneath carefully and answer exactly what is being asked – it is easy to get carried away and write something different from what is being asked.
• The section titled ‘Significance of the area affected by the proposal’ tends to be quite tricky to fill out and is sometimes neglected by applicants. It can be tempting to say that the area has no significance. However, even if the fabric is not of outstanding importance, it is incredibly rare for it not to have any significance at all. For example, a tiled floor may not look particularly exciting, but it could be a part of a complete scheme of Victorian restoration. In this respect, it is useful to remember that the fabric does not have to be medieval to be considered of interest or value. Describing the significance of the affected area does not mean that you would not be allowed to carry out the planned works; this means you will have demonstrated that you understand your church and your proposal is informed.
• Most of the text in the Statement of Significance only needs to be written once and used for any number of applications, but you need to adjust the parts of it that describe specific areas and features of the building affected by the current proposal.
• The format of the ChurchCare templates can be tricky to work with (the text boxes are known to have caused trouble in the past), and it may be a good idea to start a new document copying the titles for each section into it.
• It is often a good idea to include pictures to demonstrate the significant features of the church and the areas that will be affected by the proposal. This will help the DAC and the consultees to visualize the spaces and features you are describing and will make the text easier to read.
• It is a good idea to look at the Listing Guide for your church available through Historic England website: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/. Enter the name of your church in the search bar (if nothing comes up enter the name of the village and look through the list of monuments – your church should be one of them) and read the record. This will give you an idea of which features make this church significant. For example, if the 16th-century pews are mentioned as one of the reasons the church was listed in the first place, and you are planning to remove some of them, you will need to make a very strong argument to demonstrate the need for removal or perhaps instead consider a proposal in which the pews will be relocated or made movable but remain in the building. If, for example, a font is mentioned in a listing guide as a particularly significant feature of your church and you are planning to relocate it as part of your reordering scheme, it may be a good idea to mention the fact the font will remain unaltered, thus preserving its significance, and to address the functional and liturgical contexts in which the building will become better as a result of the font being moved.
• The sections in the Statement of Need are written out as a sequence: each section follows on from the previous one. It is easy to get confused writing this statement but think of it as an unfolding narrative, where each section guides you to what comes next.
• If you are writing your statements in preparation for an informal consultation, do not worry about having them complete and polished – they are very much work in progress. They will only need to be finalized ahead of the formal consultation.
Finally, writing Statements of Need and Significance can be an overwhelming task but it is also quite exciting to write about your church in detail, which often results in finding out new information! If you would like some advice or assistance, please get in touch with the Care of Church Buildings Department.