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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 Parochial Church Council applied for an injunction to prevent the London Borough of Hounslow from developing a piece of land near the church, claiming that the land was consecrated, and historically had been part of the churchyard, notwithstanding that the Borough Council and its predecessor council had been registered with absolute title in respect of the particular piece of land for 69 years. The Chancellor dismissed the application.

This judgment arose out of a hearing before the Chancellor in Re St. George Hanworth [2016] ECC Lon 1. The issue of costs was referred to the Deputy Chancellor, who determined that the bulk of the costs of the London Borough of Hounslow should be paid by the Parochial Church Council.

The Vicar and Churchwardens sought a faculty to authorise the laying of a drain under a path between the church and the public sewer (with a view to servicing  a new toilet in the church at some time in the future); improvements to the paths and driveway serving the church; and the moving of the seven memorials in the northern section of the churchyard, in order to allow that area of the churchyard to be used as an open space for community use. There were seven letters of objection, but no objector wished to be a party to the proceedings. The Chancellor granted a faculty.

The principal practical point to emerge is that the notice displayed outside a church of a faculty petition, under Rule 6(4)(b)(ii) of the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2000, will not be considered to have been displayed properly if displayed on a noticeboard inside a locked porch, even if the public may be able to see into the porch through an iron grille door. There is also a useful obiter dictum on the relationship between the Faculty Jurisdiction and planning and advertising controls.

Petition for setting aside of an area of the churchyard for the interment of cremated remains. Objection that site unsuitable. Faculty granted.

The proposal was to fell a sycamore tree in the churchyard and replace it with smaller suitable trees further away from the church building. The tree was at least 10m taller than the church tower and 5.3m from the church building, resulting in moss on the church roof, black mould on the nearest church buttress and the blocking of gutters and fall pipes during the autumn. A tree specialist also advised that there was a risk of splitting of the four main boughs. The Chancellor as satisfied that there as a good case for removing the tree and granted a faculty.

The proposal was to erect a temporary classroom building within the churchyard (which was closed for burials), pending the completion of an extension to the Church of England school. The Chancellor granted a faculty, subject to conditions which included the removal of the temporary building within two years. The Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884 prohibits the erection of a building on a closed churchyard, unless for the purpose of enlarging a church, chapel, meeting house or other place or worship. In the present case, the temporary building would be linked to the church and would be available for use by the church on Sundays.

The Parochial Church Council wished to carry out works extending the church hall, next to the southern boundary of the churchyard, in order to improve the facilities that it affords for uses that are ancillary to the church and for wider community use. The proposed works included removal of two trees; relocation of memorials; removal and rebuilding gate post; resurfacing of the path. Letters of objection were submitted by eight parishioners, of whom one withdrew and two became formal objectors. The Chancellor stated that the test to be applied was not the test laid down in Re St. Alkmund Duffield [2001] (which applied to listed buildings) but the test set out by Lord Penzance in Peek v Trower [1881]: "All presumption is to be made in favour of things as they stand.  If you and others propose to alter them, the burden is cast upon you to shew that you will make things better than they are – that the church will be more convenient, more fit for the accommodation of the parishioners who worship there, more suitable, more appropriate, or more adequate to its purpose than it was before; and if you cannot shew this to the court, at least shew the court that a majority of those for whose worship the church exists desires the alterations which you propose." The Chancellor determined that the test had been satisfied. Faculty granted.

The petitioners sought permission to replace a bench surrounding a tree in the churchyard. They submitted with the petition a report by a firm of arboriculturalists, which indicated that the tree was in a dangerous condition and should be removed. The Chancellor gave directions that he would not grant permission unless the petitioners were able to produce evidence that the tree was not as dangerous as had been suggested in the report. The petitioners submitted a report from a tree expert employed by the borough council, who said that the tree was basically sound, showed "excellent signs of vitality", and a Quantified Tree Risk Assessment had suggested that risk was at a tolerable level. The Chancellor granted a faculty for the new bench, subject to some lower branches of the tree being removed, as recommended by the borough council tree expert.

The petition proposed various landscaping works in the churchyard, relating to the addition of a churchyard extension. There was a single objection to the removal of a line of fir trees. The Deputy Chancellor granted a faculty for all the proposed works.