When parishes wish to make changes to their church buildings, contents or churchyards, they are required to obtain the necessary permissions for works. Parishes need to request permission through an online application via the Church of England’s Online Faculty System (OFS), a web-based application portal. If the works that a parish wishes to undertake are not specifically mentioned in List A, List B or within the list of Additional Matters Orders, then a faculty is required.
A faculty is a permission granted by the Consistory Court of the Diocese for work to be carried out to consecrated buildings and the land attached, which will usually include the church and churchyard, fixtures, fittings and furnishings. The jurisdiction is normally exercised by the Chancellor of the Diocese. Faculty applications are governed by the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015 (“FJR 2015”), as amended by the Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2019 and the Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2022.
Faculty applications are considered by the Norwich Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) at one of its regular meetings – please note the agenda closing dates (submission dates) for these meetings. Alternatively, a ‘minor’ faculty application may be processed through the delegated authority faculty procedure (see below), administered on a rolling programme rather than through the meeting schedule.
The online system is designed to guide and prompt you through your application. As part of the online application process, you will be required to give a written description of the proposed works, but in addition you will need to provide full technical details.
Please note that these details are very important and you will need to upload a variety of supporting documents. Without them your application will not be valid and is likely to be delayed in being processed.
Online Faculty System (OFS)
The Norwich DAC Office commenced use of the OFS for managing online applications for works to churches and churchyards in 2017.
You may find it helpful to save or bookmark the OFS website for ongoing use: facultyonline.churchofengland.org
Please note that registration is required to be approved by the DAC Office, so there may be a short delay while this occurs
At the start of a new faculty application, you will be asked to complete a summary description of the proposed works, the standard information form, and the early parts of the petition form. The DAC Secretary will review these and advise on the next steps according to what is specifically needed. This process is intended to save you providing more information than is needed.
Statements of Significance and Needs
For applications relating to listed church buildings, the next stage usually requires submission of Statements of Significance and Needs. It is recommended that you consult the following Church of England guidance, which relates to this important part of the application process: Statements of Significance and Needs
In every case, supporting documents are required to be submitted as part of a valid faculty application.
A range of documents is needed to assist the expert DAC members, who will be reviewing your submitted application, to understand the nature and scope of your proposal. The members will then be able to give statutory advice to the Diocesan Chancellor, which will inform the Chancellor’s determination of the case.
Prior to making your application, please read the following diocesan guidance: Supporting documents
When first submitted via the Online Faculty System (OFS), a faculty application will receive the informal (pre-application) advice of the DAC. An informal application gives parishes the opportunity to receive feedback and guidance from the DAC on a proposal. Informal advice can also be offered before undertaking a DAC site visit, to best inform the visit.
When further developed via the OFS, the faculty application will receive the formal (statutory) advice of external bodies (e.g. Historic England, The Church Buildings Council, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, Historic Buildings and Places, The Georgian Society and the Victorian Society), where applicable, and that of the DAC. The DAC is required to take account of advice received (within 42 days) from external bodies in the giving of its own formal advice.
Recommendation of Advice
Once the DAC has made its decision on the application, the Notification of Advice is issued and will be one of the following:
(a) that the DAC recommends the works or proposals for approval by the court;
(b) that the DAC does not recommend the works or proposals for approval by the court; or
(c) that the DAC does not object to the works or proposals being approved by the court.
As a body, the DAC gives formal (statutory) advice on faculty applications to the Diocesan Chancellor. It is the Chancellor, rather than the DAC, who grants faculty permission.
The next step is to display public notices of the proposed Petition inside and outside the parish church for 28 full days. The public notices are generated for printing via the application on the Online Faculty System. This requirement allows third parties the opportunity to send their comments on the proposals to the Registry which administers the final stage of the process. Applicants then complete Form 4a confirming that the notices were displayed for the required period.