Section 85(8) of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 states that all listed places of worship are exempt from the requirement to obtain listed building consent for ‘the demolition, alteration or extension of an ecclesiastical building which is at the time being used for ecclesiastical purposes or would be so used but for the works’. This is known as ecclesiastical exemption.
In 2014, at the Minister’s request, the Historic Environment Division (HED) and the Historic Buildings Council for Northern Ireland undertook a review of the way in which ecclesiastical exemption is currently working in Northern Ireland. This review concluded that the exemption is not protecting our ecclesiastical heritage and recommended that it should be removed.
The consequence of removing the exemption is that listed building consent will be required for any works involving the complete or partial demolition of a listed place of worship, or for its alteration or extension in a manner which would affect its character ad as building of special architectural or historic interest.
Note: There were 122 responses to the consultation and the paper above sets out a detailed consideration of these. A ministerial statement setting out the way forward was published on 29 September 2016.