Advice On Church Conversions
Redundant churches can make for the most surprisingly unusual and exciting conversions.
Thanks to the Victorians, who built so many surplus churches that the pews weren’t even being filled in the 1800s, a large number of these striking buildings fell out of use long ago. In 1969 the law changed to allow the release of churches for alternative purposes and, since then, over 200 have been converted.
Converting a church yields several distinct design issues. Planners are unlikely to allow any major external alterations as they will want to retain the original character of the building, and existing windows and doors should be retained and restored with sensitivity. If additional light is needed for a new first floor it may be possible to insert conservation rooflights.
Luckily, churches arent that hard to find: a list of redundant churches is available from the Church Commissioners. They also publish a useful pamphlet, New Uses for Redundant Churches, which provides a starting point for converters (020 7898 1000 or visit the website at churchcommissioners.org).
You’ll need to run your ideas by the planners before making an offer, but when purchasing a church, the offer should be made to the local Diocesan Redundant Church Uses Committee. They put the offer to the Church Commissioners, who then make the final decision. As well as the planning department, you will also have to run any plans for architectural or structural changes to the Church Commissioners for approval.
If the church has an attached graveyard, the law requires any human remains to be removed and interred somewhere else if the plans will affect them.