Renovating a listed Church

Listed churches: beautiful architecture, steeped in history...but not the easiest to adapt when it comes to your congregation's changing needs. That's not to say renovation is impossible...

When it comes to listed buildings, renovations can get complicated. Any seasoned Grand Designs viewer will have groaned as a hapless couple introduce their dream build as a ‘modernisation of a lovely Grade II tudor farmhouse’. Good luck getting that planning permission.

Yet despite some limitations, it is possible to renovate listed buildings successfully, and it doesn’t always need to turn your church into a money pit. With the right planning, you can help your listed church meet the needs and wants of your congregation without spoiling the features that make it special.

Ecclesiastical exemption

Here's where listed churches differ from domestic properties. Legislation recognises that churches (and other places of worship) should be "living buildings" - a building that serves the church community. As such, many faith buildings are exempt from listed building and planning permission for conservation areas, but they remain governed by general planning permission rules. You can find some useful information on exemptions at the English Heritage website.

Planning Process

As you may have guessed, the exemption doesn’t mean you can start knocking down walls when you feel like it: there are still lots of things to consider. Your first step is to inform your Diocesan Advisory Committee of your intent to renovate. They can outline any concerns ahead of the planning process, and will be a useful contact throughout the process.

Keeping character

Regardless of the rules and regulations, if you have a listed church, you’re likely to want to keep its unique character and respect the history of the building. We suggest working with an architect who specialises in places of worship or listed buildings, who can help you to maximise the impact of the renovations without disrupting the character of your church.

Everything and the kitchen sink

A kitchen - with all the plumbing, wiring and construction involved - may seem like an impossible dream inside a listed church. Many do opt for an external construction - an extension with a glass walkway to the church is a popular trend at the moment - but it's not the only option. "Pod" kitchens are gaining popularity for protected churches that don't have the space (or funding) for an extension. Take a look at this month's case study, Holy Trinity Church Bradford on Avon, to see a great example of a "pod" kitchen.


To find out more about how a semi-commercial kitchen can be the perfect addition to your church - listed or otherwise - call us on 0844 809 9186.


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