Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Churchyards

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Faculty granted by the Chancellor, authorising the removal of kerb stones from the churchyard, being satisfied that the proposal had been sufficiently publicised and no memorial owner had expressed objection to the works being carried out.

The Vicar and Churchwardens sought permission (1) to install four timber bollards along the boundary of a cobbled approach to the churchyard and (2) to install an iron gate and fence within the church boundary to prevent entry of livestock. The bollards would prevent parking on a cobbled area between the road and a cottage, through which passed a passage to the churchyard. The owner of the cottage objected. The Chancellor granted a faculty. As regards the bollards, the Chancellor gave the petitioners a period of 20 years in which to install the bollards, if parking on the cobbled access continued to be a problem.

The petition comprised two proposals for the Grade II Victorian church: firstly, "a relatively modest re-ordering of the north aisle and related works" and, secondly, the formation of a car park. There was one objector, who chose not to become a party opponent. Applying the approach of the Court of Arches in Re St Alkmund Duffield [2013] Fam 158, the Chancellor was satisfied that the works, if implemented, would not result in harm to the significance of the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest, and therefore granted a faculty.

In 2008, a faculty had been granted for the demolition of a building in the churchyard and the construction of an extension to the church, which had necessitated the exhumation of 154 sets of skeletal remains (the ‘Fewston Assemblage’) which were removed from the graveyard during excavations for the erection of the Washburn Heritage Centre. A new petition was presented in 2016, seeking authority to reinter the skeletal remains in the churchyard and the erection of three memorials to record the reinterments. Whilst noting that the petitioners in 2008 should have applied for a Ministry of Justice licence, as the remains had not immediately been reinterred in consecrated ground, the Chancellor granted a faculty for the reinterment of the Fewston Assemblage and the erection of the three proposed memorials.

The Vicar and Churchwardens sought authority to conduct a survey of, firstly, the area of churchyard added in 1926 and currently in use and, secondly, the older part of the churchyard, in order to ascertain by rodding where further burials could take place, including burials in the older part of the churchyard over existing graves. A neighbour, whose house windows looked out directly on to the older part of the churchyard, objected to its re-use and the possible disturbance of existing graves, stating that interments carried out near his windows would be distressing and affect his enjoyment of his property. He claimed that such re-use would amount to a nuisance and also blight his property. The Deputy Chancellor determined that the PCC were legally entitled to re-use old burial ground until such time as the churchyard was formally closed, and that such re-use would not amount in law to a nuisance. A faculty was granted.

Faculty Petition for various works to a redundant chapel vested in the Churches Conservation Trust and the adjoining chapelyard, including improved access within the chapelyard and into the chapel, various rainwater and foul water drainage improvements, the creation of a rubbish and recycling area, and the removal of the modern metal security gates from the entrance to the south porch and their replacement with the Victorian gates which previously hung there. There was one objector, whose objection was in respect of the replacement of the porch gates. Finding by the Chancellor that the gates, being part of the redundant chapel, were not within the Faculty Jurisdiction (though the chapelyard still was). Faculty granted for all the works. On a point of procedure, the objector having objected that no public notice had been displayed at the parish church a mile away (though public notices had been displayed both inside and outside of the chapel), the Chancellor dispensed with the need for a further public notice at the parish church, on the grounds that "To require the display would cause delay, and I am satisfied that justice will not be compromised in this case given the notices already displayed and the number and nature of objections raised."

A Faculty had been granted in 2013 for the felling of some trees in the churchyard. On the date when the contractors started work, an objection to the work was made on site, as a result of which the work was suspended. The faculty subsequently lapsed. A new petition was presented and the same objector wished to become a party opponent. The Chancellor issued directions dealing with, inter alia, (a) an allegation by the objector that the Chancellor should recuse himself; (b) an application by one of the petitioner's for an extension of time in order to respond to the objector's particulars of objection; and (c) the need for an arboricultural report. The Chancellor also directed that the Ancient Yew Group should be invited to comment on the proposals.

Staff of the Leeds City Council instructed its workmen to erect a fence along the perimeter of the closed churchyard (for which the Council was responsible), to prevent a recurrence of recent anti-social behaviour, involving youths standing on the churchyard wall and throwing stones at traffic. The Council did so without first seeking a faculty or planning consent from its own planning department, even though a meeting had been arranged for interested parties to discuss the best fencing solution. The Chancellor took "a dim view of the petitioner’s conduct in this matter, notwithstanding that it may have originally been animated by an understandable sense of civic responsibility ... the execution of that good intention was characterised by ineptitude, discourtesy and illegality". However, notwithstanding the failings of the Council, the Chancellor decided that a Confirmatory Faculty should be granted.