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Alphabetical Index of all judgments on this web site as at 4 June 2020

Index by Dioceses of all judgments on this web site, as at 4 June 2020

Churchyards

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The Court of Arches held that, where a local authority was responsible for a closed churchyard, a parish council had sufficient interest to intervene in faculty proceedings concerning the laying flat of memorials there. Where memorials had been laid flat, the duty on the local authority to maintain the churchyard included an obligation to take into account the safety of memorials and the appearance of the churchyard, but a district council was under no duty to reinstate memorials it had laid flat. (This case is fully reported at [20o9] PTSR 968.)

Following a complaint by a parishioner, there were two petitions relating to the churchyards of two parishes. The Rector and Churchwardens sought a confirmatory faculty to allow the retention of several grave markers and other items which have been introduced without lawful authority, either because the Rector had allowed items to be introduced which were outside the delegated authority he had under the churchyards regulations or because items had been installed without his permission first being sought. In his judgment, the Chancellor emphasised the importance of clergy complying with their responsibilities under the regulations. The Chancellor granted a faculty with conditions requiring that several items should be removed from graves in the two churchyards.

The University of Oxford proposed a redevelopment of the site of the former Radcliffe Infirmary burial ground, which had been consecrated in 1770. The University therefore petitioned for the exhumation and subsequent reinterment of the human remains contained in the burial ground. The Chancellor granted a faculty. He was satisfied that the provisions of the Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884, which restricted building on disused burial grounds, did not apply, owing to an exception in the Act which excluded burial grounds transferred by statute (the site having been transferred to to the Minister of Health under the National Health Service Act 1946). He was also satisfied that there were exceptional circumstances to justify exhumation, namely, the public benefit to be derived from using the land for academic purposes.

The churchwardens and fabric officer of the church petitioned for a confirmatory faculty in relation to works of refurbishment to the area for cremated remains in the churchyard, which was surrounded by stone flags. Over a period prior to the summer of 2015 there had been complaints about the untidiness of the area and nine further interments of ashes had taken place outside the area, which had become full. The PCC, without a faculty, extended the area from 32 plots to 106 plots, replaced the turf with gravel, and constructed a low wall surmounted with stone around the enlarged plot. Following the discovery of the works by the Archdeacon, an application was made for a confirmatory faculty. The Chancellor was very concerned about the works, both from an aesthetic point of view and more importantly because of potential future maintenance issues. She granted a faculty for a limited period of 10 years, after which the situation should be reviewed.

The churchwardens and fabric officer of the church petitioned for a confirmatory faculty in relation to works of refurbishment to the area for cremated remains in the churchyard, which was surrounded by stone flags. Over a period prior to the summer of 2015 there had been complaints about the untidiness of the area and nine further interments of ashes had taken place outside the area, which had become full. The PCC, without a faculty, extended the area from 32 plots to 106 plots, replaced the turf with gravel, and constructed a low wall surmounted with stone around the enlarged plot. Following the discovery of the works by the Archdeacon, an application was made for a confirmatory faculty. The Chancellor was very concerned about the works, both from an aesthetic point of view and more importantly because of potential future maintenance issues. She granted a faculty for a limited period of 10 years, after which the situation should be reviewed.

The parish council decided to make a donation for the laying of cabling in the churchyard for external lighting to the church, and an external power point for Christmas lights. The work was carried out without faculty by an electrician who was a member of the parish council and also a  member of the PCC. The petition sought an order in respect of the unauthorised laying of the cable. In his judgment, the Chancellor emphasises the need for observance of the faculty jurisdiction, in view of such matters as the risk of disturbance of human remains; the need to give parishioners an opportunity of objecting; the need for planning permission; and insurance and safety issues.

The petition proposed the construction of a new boarding house for St. Paul's Cathedral School on the footprint of the former church (the body of which was destroyed by bombing in 1941), whilst retaining the Wren tower. Notwithstanding an objection from the Twentieth Century Society that the proposals would cause substantial harm and that this would not be outweighed by substantial public benefits, the Chancellor granted a faculty.

The Vicar and Churchwardens wished to erect a prefabricated shed in the churchyard as a storage facility for the local scout group. The Chancellor did not regard it as appropriate that part of church land should be permanently given over to a secular storage building, but was willing to grant a faculty for a temporary licence to install and use the proposed building for a period of five years.

There was a proposal to remove two large yew trees growing close to the vestry. The Deputy Chancellor granted a faculty for the removal of one tree, as it appeared that it had caused damage to the vestry. He declined to grant a faculty for the other tree, the removal of which would have resulted in a loss of privacy for a neighbour, unless (1) further monitoring showed that the tree was causing damage to the vestry; (2) the trees advisor or architect recommended the removal; and (3) a scheme of planting was proposed to preserve privacy for the neighbour.

There was a proposal to fell two yew trees in the churchyard and to reduce the height of three other yew trees. A neighbour argued that the felling of one of the trees would affect the amenity of his house. The petitioners said they wished to have the two trees removed in anticipation of building an extension to the church. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for the felling of the first two trees. The petitioners would have to make a case for the removal of the trees if and when they submitted a petition for an ewxtension to the church. However, he granted a faculty for the reduction in height of the other three trees.