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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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There was a proposal to fell two sycamore trees in the closed churchyard. Probably due to the very dry summer of 2018, the roots of one of the trees in question had caused ground shrinkage, resulting in the appearance of vertical cracks at the corner of the church building. There were three letters of objection, but no formal parties opponent. The Chancellor was satisfied as to the need to fell the trees and granted a faculty.

The petitioners, the rector and churchwardens, removed from the churchyard personal mementoes which had been placed on graves, and which the churchyards regulations did not allow. They then gave notice of removal, where possible advising the families concerned as to where they could collect the relevant items. The petitioners subsequently applied for a faculty for the disposal of the items not collected. There were two objectors, who became parties opponent, around 40 other written objections, and there was an online petition opposing the faculty. The Chancellor decided that the petitioners were entitled to remove the items, as required by the churchyards regulations, and that a faculty was needed for their disposal. The Chancellor therefore confirmed an earlier decision to grant a faculty, subject to there being no objections.

The Petitioners (the Rector and Churchwardens) sought a faculty to authorise the removal of a panel fence erected by neighbours on what was alleged to be churchyard land; to authorise the erection of a post and rail fence within the churchyard boundary; to give a direction as to the ownership of a stone retaining wall on the boundary and as to the responsibility for its maintenance; and to authorise the implementation of recommendations contained in a report from a company of tree consultants concerning trees and shrubs near the boundary. In the course of the proceedings the Objectors withdrew their claim that the fence they had erected was not on churchyard land and removed the fence. A declaration was given that the retaining wall belonged to the churchyard, and the petitioners were given leave to erect a post and rail fence and plant a double width yew hedge on the churchyard side of the new fence. At the end of the judgment is an additional judgment as to costs.

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.