Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Churchyards

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The Parochial Church Council wished to carry out works extending the church hall, next to the southern boundary of the churchyard, in order to improve the facilities that it affords for uses that are ancillary to the church and for wider community use. The proposed works included removal of two trees; relocation of memorials; removal and rebuilding gate post; resurfacing of the path. Letters of objection were submitted by eight parishioners, of whom one withdrew and two became formal objectors. The Chancellor stated that the test to be applied was not the test laid down in Re St. Alkmund Duffield [2012] (which applied to listed buildings) but the test set out by Lord Penzance in Peek v Trower [1881]: "All presumption is to be made in favour of things as they stand.  If you and others propose to alter them, the burden is cast upon you to shew that you will make things better than they are – that the church will be more convenient, more fit for the accommodation of the parishioners who worship there, more suitable, more appropriate, or more adequate to its purpose than it was before; and if you cannot shew this to the court, at least shew the court that a majority of those for whose worship the church exists desires the alterations which you propose." The Chancellor determined that the test had been satisfied. Faculty granted.

The petitioners sought permission to replace a bench surrounding a tree in the churchyard. They submitted with the petition a report by a firm of arboriculturalists, which indicated that the tree was in a dangerous condition and should be removed. The Chancellor gave directions that he would not grant permission unless the petitioners were able to produce evidence that the tree was not as dangerous as had been suggested in the report. The petitioners submitted a report from a tree expert employed by the borough council, who said that the tree was basically sound, showed "excellent signs of vitality", and a Quantified Tree Risk Assessment had suggested that risk was at a tolerable level. The Chancellor granted a faculty for the new bench, subject to some lower branches of the tree being removed, as recommended by the borough council tree expert.

The Chancellor granted a faculty for the replacement of the current church hall situated within the churchyard (a 1960s building, intended to be temporary and now in need of replacement) with a new single-storey hall, of which one elevation would be faced with brick to match the Victorian church building and the other elevations would be clad in timber.

The Deputy Chancellor granted a faculty to authorise the removal from the churchyard of a tree which was in danger of causing damage to an adjoining property.

In 2012, memorial kerbs had been removed from the churchyard without the authority of a faculty, causing distress to several family members of those buried in the churchyard. The Chancellor directed that the Team Vicar and Churchwardens should apply for a confirmatory faculty, in order that objections could be properly dealt with. Faculty granted, subject to conditions, including a requirement that kerbs should be reinstated, but laid flush with the ground.

The Chancellor granted a faculty to the Petitioners, a firm of printers whose premises adjoined the churchyard, (1) permitting members of their staff to park bicycles and motor-cycles in part of the churchyard and (2) permitting vehicular access over the churchyard for the purpose of bringing in or taking away any equipment, apparatus or machinery. In both cases  the permission was limited to a period not longer than the duration of the Petitioners' further use of their premises as a printing works or thirty months, whichever should be the shorter. The Chancellor also found that the Petitioners were "legally entitled as of right (by virtue of prescription and a presumed lost modern grant, including a faculty)", for themselves, their servants, agents and licensees, to a right of way on foot, with or without the trolleys they were accustomed to use in their business, over the churchyard access.

The Chancellor granted a faculty to authorise the re-use of an area of the churchyard in which there were no memorials and where it was believed that there had been no burials for at least 75 years.

The Chancellor granted a faculty to authorise the re-use of an area of the churchyard in which there were no memorials and where it was believed that there had been no burials for at least 150 years.

The priest in charge, a churchwarden and the Chairman of the Tutbury War Memorials Preservation Committee petitioned for a faculty to place two metal wreath holders near to the war memorial in the churchyard. Historic England and the Parish Council objected, the former becoming a party opponent. Historic England felt that the proposed structures were not of sufficient aesthetic merit for the churchyard of the Grade I listed church. The Chancellor, however, was satisfied that what was proposed was of an appropriate quality, and accordingly he granted a faculty.