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Buildings: Care & Maintenance

Guidance on regular maintenance tasks, Health and Safety, heating, insurance, lighting and electrics, metal theft, roofing

Keith Halliday

Church Buildings Advisor

01904 699523

Just as prevention is always better than cure, maintenance is preferable to major repairs. However, repairs may not always be avoidable – structural problems develop, building materials wear out, damage leads to water ingress and damp. Whatever the problem, it is important to establish the cause of the damage in order to avoid reoccurrence, so your first step should always be to consult your architect as s/he can best determine the cause and extent of the damage and advise on suitable repair methods.

Nigel Walter

Routine maintenance and repair

Regular inspection is at the heart of keeping your church in the best possible condition. Sometimes it is the simplest tasks – such as gutter clearance – which have the biggest impact on the condition of your building (and the comfort of the congregation).

The Church Buildings Council (CBC) has produced a Calendar of Care which sets out routine maintenance tasks on a month-by-month basis, and advice on Rainwater Goods and Drainage.

Historic England have prepared extensive guidance on the maintenance and repair of places of worship and drawn up a searchable complete A-Z guide to looking after your building.

The Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) advises on the care of historic and traditionally constructed buildings and their website includes a searchable knowledge base.

Not all maintenance and repair works need full faculty permission; some minor works need no permission (List A), whilst others need the Archdeacon’s permission (List B). You can read these lists and find more detailed guidance on the webpage headed Faculty Permissions. 

Health and Safety

You and your PCC will be responsible for the safety of visitors to your building, so please make sure any necessary risk assessments are up to date. 

The Church Buildings Council (CBC) has issued guidance notes on various Insurance and H & S related topics including Asbestos Removal, Lifting Equipment, Lightning Protection and Working at Height.

Ecclesiastical Insurance (EIG) have issued guidance notes on the installation and use of Ladders, Lifting Equipment, Electrical Wiring, Lightning Protection, and risk assessment templates for Fire Safety etc.

HM Government’s guide ‘Fire safety risk assessment: small and medium places of assembly’ is intended for all employers, managers, occupiers and owners of small (accommodating up to 60 people) and medium (up to 300 people) places of assembly including village halls and community centres, church buildings, marquees etc. Part 1 explains what fire risk assessment is and how you might go about it, Part 2 provides guidance on fire precautions and there is an Appendix which specifically covers historic buildings.

Electrics and Lighting 

Cost of electricity supply upgrades: For parishes looking to connect to an electricity supply, or upgrade from single phase to three phase, the cost changes brought into force on 1st April 2023 through Ofgem’s Significant Code Review can make a huge difference. The changes mean that while we still pay to connect to the electricity network, we no longer pay for improvements to the network itself. So, if a quote for connection looks extremely high, it is a good idea to check that you are working from a quote obtained since 1 April 2023 – the difference could be tens of thousands of pounds.

A good lighting scheme can make all the difference to people’s experience of your church building. If you are planning to upgrade your church lighting, then your starting point should be to carry out an audit of your actual lighting needs. See the DAC’s guidance note on conducting a lighting audit.

The CBC’s guidance on Lighting and Floodlighting including light levels, aesthetics, and energy-saving LED lighting is helpful, as is their note on Electrical Wiring Installations in churches.

If you are planning to add exterior lighting to your church building and/or churchyard then also see the DAC’s own guidance note on Floodlighting

If you are considering a new lighting scheme for your church and need specialist advice, contact the DAC Secretary, Catherine Copp, and she can arrange for one of the DAC’s Lighting Advisers to get in touch with you and, if appropriate, arrange a site visit.

Not all works to lighting and electrics need a faculty. For example, extending an existing lighting system or replacing light fittings with fittings suitable for low-energy lamps may only need your Archdeacon’s permission under List B, but a whole new lighting scheme will require a full faculty.

Electrical Stipulations for plugged-in apparatus

Electrical Declaration Form

Heating

The CBC’s guidance on Heating church buildings is extensive and includes heating principles, how to conduct options appraisals, and how to find the best heating solution for your building (and for the planet!).

As part of the Church of England’s commitment to reach Net Zero Carbon by 2030, the faculty rules were amended (from 1st July 2022) to help churches meet their carbon reduction targets. The new rules require churches to have due regard to the CBC’s advice on Net Zero Carbon for those proposals where it applies; that “net zero guidance” can be found under the heading ‘Faculty Changes (2022) and Key Guidance’. The ‘Practical Path to Net Zero Carbon for Churches’ is included in that guidance and this must be given due regard for all proposals, as it provides the context to show that the proposal is part of a wider understanding by your church of its route to net zero carbon. Most of the changes to Lists A and B will make it easier for churches to make adaptations such as insulating pipes, draft-proofing doors and windows, fitting new non fossil fuel boilers, electric pew heaters etc. to help worshippers feel warm and comfortable, whilst the installation of like-for-like fossil fuel boilers and new oil tanks will now be subject to a full faculty application. [NOTE: churches are not prevented from having fossil fuel boilers, they simply need to be able to justify their installation in the light of the net zero guidance]. 

Energy Footprint Tool – with effect from 1st May 2024 all applications concerning heating systems must include a completed Energy Footprint assessment.

If you are considering changing your heating source to a different type and need specialist advice, contact the DAC Secretary, Catherine Copp, and she can arrange for one of the DAC’s Heating Advisers to get in touch with you and, if appropriate, arrange a site visit.

Metal Theft and Roofing

A number of churches in our diocese have been targeted by thieves who have stripped lead coverings and flashings from roofs, causing significant damage. If this happens to you –

  1. Call the police.
    • If the crime is in progress, someone suspected of a crime is nearby, or violence is being used or   threatened – call 999
    • If the offenders have gone – call 101
  2. Secure the crime scene.
  3. Get emergency roof covering in place.
  4. Inform your insurers, your Archdeacon, your quinquennial inspector/church architect, and Keith Halliday (Church Buildings Adviser, 01904 699523 or keith.halliday@yorkdiocese.org and he will liaise with Historic England).

Historic England have detailed guidance notes on the Theft of Metal from Church Roofs covering Prevention and Response, replacement materials and the use of Terne-Coated Stainless Steel.

The CBC has also prepared guidance on Alternative Roofing Materials to Lead.

Not all roofing works require a faculty. For example, the like for like replacement of roof lead or other material covering the roof of a listed building only needs your Archdeacon’s permission under List B (and if your church is not a listed building then the work is covered by List A). However, a change of roofing material will almost always require a full faculty. See the DAC’s advice note on Replacement Roofing Materials.

Security – CCTV, Alarms

The Church of England has a huge amount of advice and guidance on all matters relating to CCTV and its use – licensing, privacy, livestreaming, copyright, data storage. It also includes a GDPR compliant template policy document that will allow churches to govern the installation and operation of all CCTV cameras within their church building and a warning sign to alert visitors that such a system is in use. The policy template will need to be tailored to the requirements of the building and must be followed by all staff including contractors.

To help you make your building more secure, the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules provide for the installation of roof alarms to be covered by List A (no permission needed), whilst security and fire alarms and CCTV systems are covered by List B (so they only need your Archdeacon’s permission rather than a full faculty).

Defibrillators

More parishes are now seeking to assist their communities by installing defibrillators at their church building or church hall (churches being one of the most easily identifiable and accessible buildings in any community). Installing such equipment at a listed building requires your Archdeacon’s permission (under List B), and if your church is not listed then the installation needs no permission as it is covered by List A.

Historic Flooring

See the guidance issued by the CBC and SPAB on the care and maintenance of historic floors

Bats, Birds and Beetles

If your church building is home to bats, you need to be aware of the legal protection they enjoy, and how you can commission surveys and apply for licences in advance of building works. Take a look at the CBC’s extensive guidance on Bats in Churches. It includes a calendar of common maintenance and repair works and shows the optimal timings to avoid bat disturbance. See also Historic England’s advice on how to manage bats in your building.

If you need to prevent birds from gaining access to your building, or if woodwork needs treatment to combat beetle infestation or fungal attack, then the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules provide for certain works to be carried out without the need for a faculty. See Lists A and B (on the Faculty Permissions page) for the provisions covering timber treatment and the installation of anti-roosting spikes or bird netting.