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Quinquennial Inspections

Appointment of inspectors, and the importance of regular reports

Keith Halliday

Church Buildings Advisor

01904 699523

The Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure 2018 requires each Diocese to have a scheme for the inspection, by suitably qualified and experienced professional advisers, of all the churches in the diocese. Every church must be inspected at least once every 5 years (the “Quinquennial Inspection”).

The Quinquennial Inspection Report is one of the key documents which assists your PCC in the care and repair of a church building for which it is legally responsible. It gives a snapshot of the repair needs of the building, and lists the repairs required according to priority.

Appointment of a Quinquennial Inspector

From 1st September 2020 the appointment of a Quinquennial Inspector is to be made by each PCC:

  1. in accordance with the Church Buildings Council (CBC) Guidance,
  2. having sought and taken heed of the DAC’s advice as to the suitability or otherwise of the chosen Inspector for that particular church. Each proposed appointment will be discussed by the DAC at their next available Committee meeting and the Inspector will not be able to carry out a QI unless and until his/her appointment has been considered by the DAC.

The appointment is always of an individual, not a firm. The appointment is for one inspection and report in the first place, though the DAC takes the view that a long-term relationship with an Inspector who can monitor the building’s condition over time is beneficial. It is important that a Quinquennial Inspector’s training, accreditation (where necessary) and experience in building conservation is commensurate with the complexity and significance of the church building in question, especially those listed Grade I or Grade II*

The DAC maintains a Register of Inspectors who carry out QIs in this diocese

The CBC has prepared extensive guidance on Quinquennial Inspections which includes the CBC’s best practice note on QI Reports and Sustainability and Net Zero Carbon.

Inspection fee

The fee for the inspection is set each year by the DAC and is the same for every church no matter its size, age or significance (with the exception of a few designated ‘Major Churches’). The fee from 1st January 2024 is £1,000 plus VAT and thereafter will increase in line with inflation in January each year. It is paid direct to the Inspector by the PCC, so it is wise to plan ahead by putting aside money each year to cover it. The Inspector may charge reasonable travelling expenses for inspection visits. In some cases, a higher inspection fee may be agreed between the Inspector and the PCC (see the QI Scheme 2020 below). 

Quinquennial Inspection Scheme

Before the Inspection

The Inspector may need to see the inventory, log book, and any other paperwork relevant to the building so make sure these are to hand. It would also be sensible for the following tests to be done before the inspection so the results can be included in the Inspector’s report:

  • Electrics – should be tested every 5 years by an electrician who is a member of an accredited certification scheme (such as NAPIT, NICEIC or ECA) and certified to full competence.
  • Lightning conductor – should be tested by a suitable specialist.
  • Arboricultural report – if you have trees in your churchyard.

The Inspection

It is the PCC’s responsibility to see that the Inspection is carried out. The inspection fee covers a survey visit by your Inspector and a written Quinquennial Inspection Report setting out his/her findings and recommendations. 

You should arrange a convenient day with your Inspector. S/he will need to be met on arrival but will not need to be escorted throughout the inspection. All keys need to be available and a safe, light-weight ladder should be provided. Arrange for somebody to be reasonably near at hand in case any assistance is necessary and in order to take back the keys. The inspection will probably take several hours. The Inspector will need to inspect all spaces including towers, vestries and boiler-houses. Bells should be down on the day of inspection.

The survey carried out by your Inspector will include: maintenance of the building, defects identified and repairs recommended, safety and access issues.

The QI Report

The quinquennial system assumes that your Inspector will access all parts of the building, internal and external, where it is reasonably possible and sensible to do so. The report will make recommendations for action to be taken or further investigation needed, including any specialist reports. Copies will be sent to the incumbent, PCC secretary, Archdeacon and DAC Secretary.

When the report is received, it is important for the incumbent, churchwardens and PCC to read the report and understand its recommendations. It is designed to be a thorough and complete assessment of the condition of the building and can therefore be a lengthy document. It is useful for the PCC to walk round the building going through the recommendations. Each part of the building is described and an assessment given of any repair needs. Where action is needed, the report lists this on a scale from 1 to 5 according to the urgency of the repair, and also indicates routine items of maintenance and those areas which require further investigation or observation:

  1. Urgent, requiring immediate attention
  2. Requires attention within 12 months
  3. Requires attention within the next 18 – 24 months
  4. Requires attention within the quinquennial period
  5. A desirable improvement with no timescale (as agreed with the PCC)

Items designated level 1 on the scale indicate urgent repair needs of the building or the safety of its users. Your Inspector is likely to mention these at the time of the inspection and give guidance on how the problems can be addressed. The report is not a specification of work, and most repair items will require professional advice either from the Inspector, or from an architect, surveyor or professional adviser of comparable experience (though it is usual, and sensible, to invite your Inspector to prepare a specification and seek tenders from builders of suitable experience, and to supervise any major works).

Good quality photographs of items requiring attention will be included in the report and broad indicative costs for all such works will be given, to enable the PCC to understand the level of funding which is likely to be necessary.

Items of maintenance or minor repairs within the above timescales are likely to fall within the scope of List A or List B; all other matters will require faculty permission. No work may commence until proper authority has been given. 

You might find it helpful to arrange a follow-up visit to discuss the contents of the report with your Inspector, particularly to clarify any issues raised in the report about which you are uncertain.

See this example of a good, recent QI report.

Using your Quinquennial Inspector

Parishes sometimes have an understandable reluctance to incur professional fees. The following guidelines about whether to invite your Inspector to be involved at any stage might be helpful:

  • Day to day maintenance such as clearing gutters, replacing the odd roof tile, minor repairs to plain glazed windows and such-like do not normally require the supervision of an Inspector
  • Any job which needs a Specification of Repairs or Schedule of Works requires an Inspector or other professional adviser; if you are in any doubt, please discuss it with your Inspector 
  • Any grant towards your repairs may be difficult to obtain unless you involve a professional adviser
  • Inspectors should be selected for their experience and familiarity with work on historic buildings. It is unwise to assume that local builders or contractors will be better informed than professional advisers