RE ST MARY'S, BANBURY (1987) 3 WLR 717; 1 ALL E.R. 247
This case, in the Court of Arches, concerned a parish church built pursuant to an Act of Parliament in 1790. In order to raise funds for the building operation, the Act empowered the trustees appointed under it to sell pews or seats. A faculty was sought in 1983 for the reordering of the interior, including the removal of all the pews from the nave. Chancellor Peter Boydell Q.C. held (1976) Fam. 24; (1985) 1 All E.R. 611) that the parties opponent, who still enjoyed statutory rights of access to specified pews, could not be deprived of such rights by faculty. Accordingly, the pews over which the parties opponent exercised their rights were not to be taken down and removed permanently. This vitiated the entire proposal for the removal of the pews in the nave. In the Court of Arches, the Dean affirmed the Chancellor's decision, and took the opportunity to make more general observations concerning the excercise of discretion where it was sought to make alterations to a church of architectural and historic interest. He provided certain guidelines, which may be summarised as follows:
(a) A church is a house of God, which does not belong to conservationists, to the State or to the congregation.
(b) In deciding whether to permit reordering, the court should have in mind the matters usually considered in faculty cases and also these matters;
(i) the persons most concerned with the worship in the church are the regular worshippers, although others may also be concerned;
(ii) when a church is listed as a building of special architectural or historic interest, a faculty which would affect its character as such
should only be granted in wholly exceptional circumstances, those circumstances clearly showing a necessity for such a change; a reordering of such a church solely to accommodate liturgical fashion is likely never to justify such a change;
(iii) whether a church is so listed or not. a chancellor should always have in mind not only the religious interests, but also the aesthetic, architectural and communal interests relevant to the church in question;
(iv) although the faculty jurisdiction must look to the present as well as to the future needs of the worshipping community, a change which is permanent and cannot be reversed is particularly to be avoided.
The Dean of Arches also expressed the hope that the Faculty Rules would be changed to enable bodies concerned with matters of conservation to give evidence in such cases. This hope has borne fruit in a slightly different way in that the Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 1987 now permit the local planning authority and any other "statutory amenity society", viz. the Ancient Monuments Society, the Council of Church Archeology, the Georgian Group, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the Victorian Society, to object to a petition and to become parties opponent in the proceedings.
(1988) 1:2 Ecc LJ 33