Thames North Synod Office
St Paul’s United Reformed Church
London W2 5LS
Tel: 020 7799 5000

Property Matters

Matters related to Church Premises

United Reformed Church Property Matters

Due to changes in Synod Structure and statutory legislation the Synod Property Guidance Notes, which were originally issued to local churches in 2007 and amended in 2012, have now been updated.

These guidance notes are not necessarily comprehensive, but provided to give initial information and advice to church members responsible for building care and maintenance. They cover topics which we hope will give sufficient information to help those of you caring for church buildings.

The information contained within the guidance notes was correct at the time of going to print, but please be aware that legislation is subject to change, and whilst we will make every effort to keep the guidance notes up to date it is always worth checking the links given within the guidance to make sure you are accessing the correct information.

It is possible to print each of these guidance notes direct from the website, but if you would like hard copies posted to you please contact the Synod Office on 020 7799 5000. For more information about these guidance notes or any aspect of church property please contact David Skipp by email:

Building Grants, Loans, Release of Funds and Other Property Procedures


This guidance note will deal with the following procedures:

  • Grant and Loan applications
  • Minor Works—Simplified Grant/Loan process
  • Capital Works—Project Development Group Process
  • Levels of Authorisation
  • Letting of Property
  • Sales and leases of church land and property
  • Release of funds to churches

Grant/Loan Applications

Applications for Grant and/or Loan can be made to the Synod Resources Committee.

There are two procedures described in this guidance note, one for minor works and the other for Capital Works, or work of more complex nature.

It is recommended that Church Members talk through their plans with the Synod Property Development Worker, prior to completing any paperwork for application. Email:

The Synod Resources Budget is agreed by Synod and local churches are able to apply for a share of these funds for many different uses. This guidance note describes the process for building grant and loan applications. However, for minor works each church is usually expected to contribute to or even pay for the entire project through local fund raising and/or application to other grant making trusts.

Minor Works – Simplified Grant/Loan Process

Application is to be made on the Synod application form for grants, loans and release of funds, which is available on the Synod website, or from Synod Office.

The completed form should be returned to the Resources Committee secretary three weeks prior to the next Resources Committee Meeting. Documents required for submission are:

  • Completed Grant/Loan application form
  • Church’s Mission Statement
  • Latest Church Accounts
  • Latest Quinquennial Inspection report
  • Full details of the project including drawings etc.
  • Any other relevant information

It should be noted that your Local Area Group (LAG) should be given opportunity to comment on the application prior to submission to the Resources Committee. Their main purpose in doing so is to review the mission of the church in relation to the project. Comments are also requested from Synod Pastoral and Discipleship Committees.

Note: LEP’s must seek Joint Council approval before submission of project details to Resources Committee.

Capital Works—Project Development Group Process

In addition to the procedure for simplified grant/loan application, projects of a large or complex nature must appoint a Property Development Group to oversee the project. The following details relate mainly to building development projects.

The process to be adopted is for the ‘initial idea’ of a new project to be brought to the Synod Property Development Worker for comment. It is also helpful if your Local Area Group (LAG) is informed of your proposed project and their comments recorded.  If the project is deemed to be worthy of further consideration, a Project Development Group (PDG) is appointed to work out the particulars in more detail and to produce a viable scheme, which meets the requirements of the Synod mission and financial criteria.  Your LAG should be advised of progress at regular intervals but will mainly be involved in considering the mission of the local church or project.  Projects would then be tabled at Pastoral & Discipleship Committees for comment, and finally onto the Resources Committee in a completed format for formal approval.

Those churches wishing to embark on a building development project, or carrying out major repairs and maintenance, need to ensure that the LAG and the Synod Property Development Worker are informed of their proposals at the earliest opportunity.

Our church Buildings are one of our most important assets as they are usually of significant financial value, and if fully fit for purpose they enable the mission of the local church to reach out into the community, thereby proclaiming the gospel message. It is therefore important that we care for these assets and seek appropriate professional advice and expertise as outlined below.

Project Development Groups will be made up of some members of the church making the proposal together with some of the people listed below:

  • Local Area Group representative
  • Synod or Area Ecumenical Officer in LEP situations
  • Representative with financial expertise
  • Professional engaged to develop the project (Surveyor/Architect etc.)
  • Synod Property Development Worker

This Group has the responsibility of guiding the church through its project and providing progress reports to the Local Area Group and Synod committees as required.

For large projects it is preferable for the project to be developed by a suitably qualified professional team as required, e.g.:

  • Architect/Surveyor
  • Mechanical and Electrical Engineer
  • Structural Engineer
  • Quantity Surveyor

It will be necessary to include all the project costs, including: adequate contingencies (usually between 5-10%); VAT, fees and expenses for the professional team. It should also be noted that any grant, loan or Release of Funds, will be subject to final agreement by Synod Resources Committee following actual tender figures being made available before contracts can be signed.

Note: LEP’s must seek Joint Council approval before submission of project details to Resources Committee.

Note: Grants or Loans that are not taken up by the end of the year following approval will be lost unless a request for an extension of time has been approved by Resources Committee.

Letting of Property

Letting of property can be divided into two different areas. The first is the letting of manses or other residential property and the second is in relation to letting of halls and other areas within a church building.

Letting of manses and other residential property

The Church should seek the approval of the Synod Resources Committee for all property which is proposed for letting. All proposed changes should be reported to Resources Committee. For letting of property and significant changes to the existing letting agreements see Thames North Trust Guidance Note 6, available from Synod Office.

Note: Manses are not to be let on a long term basis. An initial term of six or twelve months is likely to be appropriate.

Letting of Church Premises

Church property is charity property, and is held by trustees for the benefit of the local church fellowship. URC property is held by its trustees on standard terms. The relevant provisions are that the trustees:

  1. By decision of the Church Meeting may permit temporary, occasional or intermittent use for any reputable purpose, without creating any lease or tenancy;
  2. By decision of the Church Meeting, and with the approval of Synod may let part (not the whole) of the premises for not more than 28 years.

The first of these is the simplest to deal with and can be a Hiring agreement or Licence agreement. More details of these can be found in the Thames North Trust Guidance Note 5. Thames North Trust and the Synod have provided a Generic Hiring Agreement for use by local churches. This is available from the Trust Office.

Things become more complex when a lease is required as there is a danger that an arrangement which is recorded or understood between the church and the third party user to be a licence may turn out on close scrutiny to be a lease. If this is so the user is likely to be a business tenant, which has significant implication. In this context “business” has a very wide meaning and includes charities and other not-for-profit activities.

A business tenant is entitled by law to renewal of the lease, unless it can be shown either that the premises are required by the landlord (trustee) for his, or his beneficiary’s (church’s) own use, or the building is to be demolished or reconstructed. In those circumstances the tenant may be entitled to compensation in lieu of renewal.

Local churches are recommended to consider from time to time the nature of their relationship with individual users. Daily use may point to a lease, even if the use is seasonal or termly and for part of the day (as with play groups, nurseries etc.).

For further details, contact Thames North Trust or Synod Office. You may download a Standard Hiring Agreement below.

Sales & Leases – Church Land and Property

The Charities Act 1993 contains a regime whereby charities can enter into dispositions of land without individual consent from the Charity Commission, but charity trustees have a duty to obtain the best terms reasonably obtainable. Acceptance of any other terms requires Charity Commission approval and is likely to be difficult to obtain.

Church Members should seek the approval of the Synod Resources Committee for all sales and lease of church land and property. This would normally be in writing giving clear details of the proposed sale or lease and in the case of a lease, the term of the lease.

See Thames North Trust Guidance Note 4, available from Synod Office.

Note: Sales of land or property in connection with refurbishment or redevelopment of church property or land will require Church Members to follow the procedure for Property Development Groups outlined above.

Release of funds to churches

The Church should seek approval of The Synod Resources Committee for release of funds held in trust from dealings with church property. The Synod application form includes a section for release of funds. See application form and guidance notes.

Synod approval is not required in cases where funds are held in trust from a legacy of other benefaction.

See Thames North Trust Guidance Note 10 at appendix ‘D’

A large print version of this document is available upon request. Contact Synod Office: 020 7799 5000

Annual Inspection of Church Properties

Annual Inspection of Church Properties

The annual inspection and report on the state and condition of all church properties including the Manse, should be conducted along the lines of the following questionnaire. In cases of doubt the Church Members are strongly advised to obtain the opinion of an expert on the state of its properties. In all cases copies of the annual inspection sheets should be passed to the professional Surveyor when carrying out the Quinquennial Inspection.

Annual Inspection of Church Properties Questionnaire

N.B. Items requiring comment shall be cross-referenced to this form and reported on a separate sheet.

Guidance Notes for Quinquennial Inspection


A Quinquennial Inspection of buildings is one way of assisting Church Members in the management of their buildings and manse. It provides a statement of the condition of the buildings and includes assessments of maintenance priority together with an idea of cost. It further ensures that the resources available to the Church Members are used to the best effect and as economically as possible.

In the case of church buildings that are Listed Buildings there has been a legal requirement since the beginning of 1995 under the Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Order 1994 for inspections on a fixed cycle of not more than five years. This legal requirement covers all buildings within the curtilage of the Listed Building.

A suitably qualified Architect or Surveyor (The Consultant) must carry out inspections of Listed Buildings. For buildings outside of these circumstances it is recommended by Synod Grants Loans and Property Committee that a similarly qualified Consultant carries out the quinquennial Inspection. It is preferable in all cases that the appointed Consultant has experience of working in church buildings. The Synod Property Development Worker may be able to help you find a consultant.

Church Members are advised to be wary of appointing a Consultant who is a member of their own congregation as this can be very stressful in the event of anything going wrong.

The Consultant will inspect the buildings and submit a Report of the condition of the buildings listing the defects, repairs and maintenance works requiring attention so that they can be dealt with before they become unmanageable. The Report will also provide long term advice to Church Members and Synod on likely future expenditure.

Where Church Members need financial assistance towards the cost of works to their buildings the Consultant’s Reports enable the Synod Resources Committee to process applications for grants and loans. Applications for financial assistance will not normally be considered until a valid Quinquennial Inspection has been carried out.

It is hoped that all Church Members will appreciate the necessity for and value of Inspections and arrange for them to be carried out as described in this document.

The Inspection of Church Buildings and Manses

The Synod Property Development Worker has the responsibility for overseeing the arrangements for Quniquennial Inspection and churches will be reminded when an inspection is due, or overdue.

The arrangements for the Quinquennial Inspections are the responsibility of the Church Members but they are requested to adopt the procedure as detailed in this document.

The Consultant’s Service

The Consultant will inspect the whole of the Buildings and report on the items listed on the Synod approved standard layout.

The terms of the Brief for Consultants and Specialists should be noted as they limit the inspections to be carried out. The Consultant or specialist is required to include in their Reports any matters that from their experience require further inspection or investigation. The Church Members should arrange for these further inspections after agreeing the fees and expenses the Consultant and/or Specialists will charge.

Drainage, plumbing, hot and cold water services, heating, gas, electrical and ventilation installations will be inspected but not tested. The Consultant will note that these items are subject to specialist inspection (particularly gas, heating and electrical installations) and Church Members are urged to have annual contracts for routine servicing, checking and testing in accordance with legislation

The Consultant is required to take account of the building usage and the need for fire risk assessment/plan, health and safety requirements and provision for means of escape, asbestos surveys and risk assessments.

The Consultant is not required to carry out a full structural and condition survey. If such surveys are considered essential the Consultant’s terms of reference, fees and expenses for this type of survey should be agreed in advance.

Valuations of properties are not part of Quinquennial Inspections. If these are required Church Members are advised to obtain advice from an appropriate Valuer. The valuation of church property and land is a specialist field.

The Consultant’s Report

The Consultant is required to prepare a Quinquennial Inspection Report following the survey. To make it easy to follow, a preferred layout is provided by Synod. Alternative layouts may be adopted but the information given should be the same. These will enable Church Members to make arrangements for the recommended work and the Consultant appointed to carry out the next Inspection to ascertain if the recommended work has been completed.

The Consultant is required to send three copies of their Reports to the Church, two copies for the Members, one copy for the Synod (for the attention of the Property Development Worker). In the case of Listed Buildings a fourth copy is required and should be sent by the Church Members to the Synod (for the attention of the Secretary of the Listed Buildings Advisory Committee).

The Consultant’s Fees

The Church Members should agree in writing a fee, including printing and travel expenses and all VAT, with their chosen Consultant prior to any work being carried out and check that the Consultant has appropriate professional indemnity insurance.

The fee for any additional services required by the Church Members must be agreed in writing with the Consultant prior to such services being carried out.

The Synod has agreed to pay a maximum grant of 75% including VAT of the fee, with a minimum up to £600.00 including VAT towards the fee for a church building inspection and a minimum of £360.00 including VAT towards the fee for a manse inspection that is used to house a minister in pastoral charge. The Synod will not make an additional payment for separate halls.

Should Church Members be unable to meet the cost of inspections, less the Synod contributions, an application should be submitted to the Resources Committee for a grant or loan before instructing the Consultant.

The Ecclesiastical Exemption

If the church buildings are Listed Buildings all work to them is subject to the approval of the Synod Resources Committee. In the first instance details of the works must be submitted to the Synod Listed Buildings Advisory Committee which will, after carrying out consultations, recommend the Resources Committee to approve or not approve the works.

The Ecclesiastical Exemption procedures do not apply to manses unless they are within the curtilage of listed church buildings. In the event that a manse not within the curtilage of a church building is a listed building or is within a Conservation Area the Church Members should consult the Local Planning Authority before carrying out any work to the manse.

The Ecclesiastical Exemption procedures require that appropriate professional advice must be obtained before any works are carried out. On completion of the works the professional advisor is required to certify that the works have been carried out in accordance with the approval given by the Resources Committee.

Construction (Design & Management) Regulations (CDM 2015)

In certain cases, works arising from the Quinquennial Inspection fall within the provisions of these Regulations. The Church Members are required to ensure they fulfill their duties as the client. This will usually entail appointing a principal designer and principal contractor who themselves will have duties under the regulations.

If this is a requirement, it is recommended that fees are agreed with any professional prior to carrying out any building works.

On completion of any works the Health & Safety File should be deposited with the local church for future reference.

Where work is undertaken and a Health and Safety File already exists the File should be retrieved and handed to the principal designer or contractor as required

Further details regarding CDM 2015 are included in the Synod CDM guidance note.

Brief for Professionals

This brief sets out Thames North Synod requirements and describes the conditions applicable to consultancy appointments.

The object of the inspections is to assist the Local Church in the efficient management of church buildings. It ensures that the resources available to the Local Church for works to buildings are used to the best effect and as economically as possible. It also ensures that preventative action is taken to deal with building defects and repair and maintenance works before they become unmanageable.

The Appointment

The members of each Local Church are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their own buildings and as such will appoint a Consultant direct to carry out the Inspections on the conditions set out in the brief.

The appointment is to be in writing and is to include:

  • Contact details of the person who is the Church Members’ representative.
  • A short description of the buildings, their addresses, including construction dates, and if applicable, Listed Building and Conservation Area status.
  • A short description of the church sponsored and other organisations using, hiring or renting the accommodation.
  • The arrangements made by the Church Members for repair and maintenance works to the buildings.
  • Any maintenance agreements which the Church Members hold.
  • Any fire risk assessment/plan and Licenses in respect of the buildings held by the Church Members.
  • Any Asbestos Survey Report which the Church Members hold.
  • Any Risk Assessment Report which the Church Members hold.
  • Any disability access audit.
  • Brief details of inspections carried out by bodies, such as the local authority’s Environmental Health Officer, Social Services Department, OFSTED etc.
  • The time scale for the Inspections and submission of Reports. Reports should be provided by the consultant no later than four weeks after the date of the inspection.
  • The services to be provided by the Consultant.
  • The terms of the Professional Indemnity Insurance required of the Consultant.
  • The fees agreed between the Church Members and the Consultant.

Brief for Consultants

Upon appointment the Consultant is to visit the buildings and carry out Inspections of them. The Inspections are to be carried out in accordance with the practice and standards normally expected from a member of the Consultant’s Professional Institute.

Unless otherwise agreed, the Inspections are to be carried out on the following basis:

  • The Inspections are to be part of an ongoing process that envisages that further inspections will be carried out every five years.
  • The Inspections are to be carried out without the use of temporary access such as scaffolding and ladders.
  • The removal of carpets, panelling or other fixed coverings is not required.
  • Drainage, plumbing, cold and hot water, heating, gas, electrical and ventilation installations are to be inspected but not tested. If visual inspection indicates that testing is necessary, this is to be noted in the Report. These installations are subject to specialist inspections and Church Members should be urged to have regular contracts for servicing and testing in accordance with industry standards.
  • Items such as organs, public address systems and other specialist equipment are not part of the Inspections.

The findings of the Inspections are to be recorded in Quinquennial Inspection Reports. Further details to amplify or clarify particular matters of concern are to be appended to the Reports.

The relative urgency of the need for repairs or maintenance is to be reported under one of the following headings:

  1. Immediate – Work requiring immediate attention to prevent hazardous conditions to Third Parties or serious damage to other parts of the structure.
  2. Short Term – Work requiring attention within one year of the date of the report.
  3. Medium Term – Work requiring attention within five years of the date of the report.

Where exceptional circumstances are discovered, such as severe or recent structural movement requiring immediate action, the Consultant is to make an Interim Report describing the circumstances and recommending the action required.

Where total replacement of any major element, such as roof coverings, is recommended the Consultant is to give good reasons to support his/her conclusions.

Where, after agreeing with the Church Members the fees and expenses to be charged, the Consultant can appoint specialists to provide advice on specific aspects such as building services, damp penetration, timber decay, etc. The specialist’s reports are to be appended to the Consultant’s Report.

The Consultant is to also include in their Report observations concerning:

  • Obvious hazards to the structure, such as the effect of tree roots on foundations and drains.
  • Obvious contravention of statutory requirements such as Building Regulations including Means of Escape.
  • Security and Vandalism.
  • Asbestos Survey and Risk Assessment.

The Consultant is to provide the Church Members with three copies of their Report and Appendices, with an additional copy in the case of Listed Buildings.

The Consultant’s Professional Indemnity Insurance

The Consultant is to effect and keep in force Professional Indemnity Insurance cover of not less than £500,000 (five hundred thousand pounds) for each and every event and unlimited in aggregate in any one insurance year.

Details of the insurance, and annual renewal certificates, are to be made available to the Church Members if requested by them.

The Consultant’s Fees and Expenses

The Basic fee for carrying out the Inspections and submitting the copies of Reports must be agreed in writing by Church Members prior to any work being carried out.

Any additional services required by the Church Members will be agreed with the Consultant prior to such services being carried out

Printing and travel expenses, but not travelling time, will be paid in addition to the basic fee and the Consultant is to give an indication of these costs before his/her appointment.

Value Added Tax is to be added to the fees and expenses at the rate current at the time of submitting the Report.

The Consultant’s invoice for fees and expenses is to be submitted with the Report and payment will be made within 28 days.

Annual Inspection

It is recommended by Synod that in addition to the Quinquennial Inspection Church Members should carry out an Annual Inspection and report on the state and condition of all church properties including the Manse. This should be done in accordance with the Annual Inspection Questionnaire guidance note.

A large print version of this document is available upon request. Contact Synod Office: 020 7799 5000

Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015


The Construction (Design and Management) Regulation (CDM 2015) came into force on 6th April 2015. These replace and update the 2007 regulations and are designed to be the main set of regulations for managing health, safety and welfare of construction projects.

Complying with CDM 2015 will help ensure that no-one is harmed during building work and that your building will be safe to use and maintain and should ensure that you have fewer unexpected costs and problems.

If a project is notifiable (more than 30 days and have more than 20 workers working simultaneously at any point in the project or exceeds 500 person days on site), clients must sign a declaration (notification) to the Health & Safety Executive.

Clients Duty To Manage

CDM 2015 recognises that clients are not usually experts in construction work and although you would not be expected to actively manage or supervise construction work yourself, it does recognise that clients can have a big influence over the way in which work is carried out, as the client will decide which designer and contractor will carry out the work and how much money, time and resource is available. The decisions clients make have significant impact upon health, safety and welfare of workers and others affected by the work.

The Client (usually the elders) will need to ensure that the following 10 principles are followed before commencing design of a building project:

  • Appoint the right people at the right time – If more than one contractor will be involved, you will need to appoint (in writing):
  • A principal designer who will be required to plan, manage and coordinate the planning and design work to ensure the work being considered can be carried out safely;
  • A principal contractor to plan, manage and coordinate the construction work.

You will need to ensure that the designer and contractor are the right people for the job in hand. They will need to have skills, knowledge and experience to identify, reduce and manage health and safety risks within the design and into the Construction Phase Plan.

Ensure there are arrangements in place for managing and organising the project – The work is more likely to be done without harming anyone, and be on time, if it is properly planned and managed. The  principal designer should understand the risks and try to avoid them within their design and the principal contractor will need to manage the risks on site. This will include, but not exclusively, managing risk for:

  • Falls from height
  • Collapse of excavations
  • Exposure to building dusts
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Electricity
  • Protect members of the public, the client and others
  • Allow adequate time – for the design, planning and construction work to be carried out properly.
  • Provide information to your designer and contractor – the designer and contractor will need as much information as they can gather from you in relation to the existing building or site. As client you should put together a ‘client brief’ which includes all the information you have about the project, along with timescales and budget for the build and how you expect the project to be managed.
  • Communicate with your designer and contractor – communication is one of the most important elements to ensure that your project runs smoothly and that all those involved cooperate effectively. Regular meetings with your design team and contractor are key to this and ensure the work progresses as planned.
  • Ensure adequate welfare facilities are available – ensure that your contractor has given adequate provision for welfare facilities for their workers before the work commences.
  • Ensure a construction phase plan is in place – the principal contractor (or contractor if there is only one contractor) has to draw up a plan explaining how health and safety risks will be managed. This should be proportionate to the scale of the work and associated risks and as client you should not allow work to start on site until there is a plan.
  • Keep the health and safety file – at the end of the build the principal designer should give you a health and safety file. If the principal designer leaves before the end of the project, the principal contractor should do this. This record should be kept in a safe place and be used to help manage the health and safety within the building, and be made available to anyone who needs to alter or maintain the building in the future. The file will need to be updated if any changes are made to the building in the future.
  • Protecting members of the public, including your employees – if you are an employer, or have members of the public visiting your premises, you need to be sure that they are protected from the risks of construction work. These risks should be discussed with your designer and contractor so that the risks can be removed.
  • Ensure workplaces are designed correctly – If you project is for a new workplace, or alteration to an existing workplace, it must meet the standards set out in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) regulations 1992. This may apply to local churches that have office accommodation within them that forms a ‘workplace’.

Notifying Construction Projects

For some construction work (work lasting longer than 30 days with more than 20 workers working at the same time, or involving 500 person days of work), you need to notify the HSE of the project as soon as possible before construction work starts. In practice, you may request someone else to do this on your behalf.

Why You Should Comply With Your Duties As Client

If you do not comply with CDM 2015, you are likely to influence the management of health and safety on your project. This means that your project could be putting workers and others at risk from harm, and that the finished structure may not achieve good standards or be good value for money.

If you don’t appoint a principal designer or principal contractor you will be responsible for the things they should have done!

A large print version of this document is available upon request. Contact Synod Office: 020 7799 5000

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The Equality Act 2010 – How It Affects Our Buildings


The Equality Act is designed to bring together different pieces of legislation relating to the discrimination of people’s age, race, disability, sexuality etc. This guidance booklet deals with the requirements of the Act for people with disabilities and the legal duty placed upon service providers (including churches) to be inclusive and to ensure that our buildings are accessible to disabled people.

As service providers, churches must comply with the Act:

  • Not to treat disabled people less favourably for a reason related to their disability
  • To make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people
  • To do everything reasonable to remove physical barriers to access for disabled people.

Responsibility to comply

The Equality Act is built upon the Disability Discrimination Acts of 1995 and 2005, and from the 1st October 2010 service providers have had to take reasonable steps to change their practice, particularly if that practice means that a disabled person is unable to make use of its services. This means that church trustees (elders) have a duty to provide auxiliary aids so that people with disabilities can take part in the ‘service’ to the same degree as everyone else.

The whole emphasis of the Equality Act is to ensure that disabled people are treated with equality according to their needs. Your church is more likely to comply with the Act if:

  • Church members know it is unlawful to discriminate against disabled people
  • The church establishes a positive policy of including disabled people in all its activities and making sure that all church members know about it
  • The church monitors and makes sure that their policy is working in practice
  • All elders/leaders/church staff receive disability awareness training
  • It is also helpful to confer with disabled people and disability organisations about your buildings and the services you provide
  • Carry out annual reviews to ensure that your church is compliant with the Equality Act.

In all cases, it is essential to make sure that the dignity of a disabled person is respected when churches make any sort of service provision. Disabled people are entitled to be asked about how they might be best served and given opportunity to make the same choices as all of us.

Access Appraisal

An access appraisal should be carried out to ensure that you have taken into account the needs of people with disabilities. The appraisal will include consideration of:

  • The services you provide and how and where you provide them (Service Provision)
  • Where barriers exist to people wishing to use your services (Accessibility)
  • The significance of your buildings and its fixtures, fittings, furnishings (Significance)
  • What disabled people within your congregation and community need to access your services (Experience)

These will all form your Access Plan and should lead you to consider changes that may be required to your practice, policy or procedures. You should not wait until a disabled person turns up and then make necessary arrangements to include them.

The Access Plan will often mean changes to the built environment and further information can be found within Part M of the Building Regulations and BS8300. Building regulations or planning approval may be required to adapt your buildings, together with the approval of the Resources Committee.

Practical solutions

Becoming a church that is compliant with the Equality Act can be expensive, but lack of funds does not mean you should not be thinking about and planning for compliance. Your Access Plan will identify all the areas where you will need to make reasonable changes and these should be prioritised within a phased approach.

Not everything will be expensive and some measures can be implemented immediately, such as greeting people, providing large print copies of any papers or books.

Further Information

There are a number of organizations that provide help and guidance for churches seeking to comply with the Equality Act 2010:

Through The Roof is a Christian Charity working in partnership with churches and other organisations to promote access and inclusion of disabled people in every area of church life.

The Equality Act 2010 – more information on the Equality Act can be found at:

Part M of the Building Regulations can be downloaded from

Equality & Human Rights Commission – For further in-depth information about the Equalities Act see:

A large print version of this document is available upon request. Contact Synod Office: 020 7799 5000

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Gas Servicing Guidelines – Residential Property


The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 deal with the duties of landlords to ensure that gas appliances, fittings and flues provided for tenants’ use are safe.

Many local churches own a manse or other property used by the minister or let to tenants that have gas installations and appliances within them.

These guidelines are designed to give advice to trustees (elders) and the minister or tenant of manse property to ensure full compliance with the Regulations and help to keep residential properties in a good state of repair.

General Provisions

The general provisions of the Regulations are clear about the type and use of different appliances and include the following:

A Gas Safe registered Engineer must ensure that all appliances and pipework within each property complies with the Regulations. However, it is the landlords responsibility to ensure a full inventory of all gas appliances and pipework is kept and annually reviewed.

Annual Safety Checks

Local churches with residential property have a duty, as landlord, to ensure:

  • Gas fittings (appliances and pipework) and flues are maintained in a safe condition.
  • All installation, maintenance and safety checks are carried out by a Gas Safe registered Engineer.
  • An annual safety check is carried out on each gas appliance/flue by a Gas Safe registered Engineer.
  • A record of each safety check is kept for two years.
  • A copy of the current safety check record is issued to each tenant within 28 days of the check being completed.
  • On re-letting or newly acquired properties a safety check is to be carried out by a Gas Safe registered Engineer.
  • Tenants are informed of their own responsibilities under the Gas Safety Regulations.
  • Tenants are provided with emergency instructions and appliance operating instructions.

Annual Safety Checks must be arranged by the trustees (elders).

Tenant’s Responsibilities

Tenants also have responsibilities imposed upon them by the Gas Safety Regulations:

  • Under no circumstances must tenants carry out DIY work on gas installations and appliances.
  • Tenants should inform the landlord and/or managing agent immediately if they know or suspect a gas system to be unsafe. It is a criminal offence to knowingly use an unsafe gas appliance.
  • In an emergency the tenant should turn off the gas at the main cut-off valve and inform the National Grid immediately, by telephoning 0800 111 999
  • Before allowing anyone into the property to carry out Gas Safety Checks tenants should ask to see their Gas Safe identification card. This will have a photograph of the operative, services provided, gas type they are qualified to work on, areas of work they are qualified to work on.
  • To allow access to their premises (given reasonable notice) to enable the landlord to fulfil gas checks and maintenance requirements under the Regulations

Be safe

It is a legislative requirement to have one working (regularly tested) Smoke Alarm installed on every floor of a rental property used as living accommodation.

In addition, Carbon Monoxide alarms may need to be fitted in manses and rented residential property, and is a legislative requirement within and room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is widely known as a silent killer. It is highly poisonous and cannot be detected by the senses. You can’t see, smell or taste its presence. Exposure to even low levels of CO can cause brain damage and death.

CO is produced by the incomplete combustion of gas, solid or liquid fuels. It arises from badly installed or poorly maintained gas appliances. Insufficient ventilation to the appliance or away from the appliance (flues and chimneys blocked) will also cause CO build up.

Signs of CO are: yellow or brown stains around the appliance, pilot lights which blow out frequently and increased condensation inside windows.

Symptoms: Fatigue, headaches, flu like symptoms such as nausea, chest pains, sudden giddiness when standing up, sickness, diarrhoea and stomach pains, erratic behaviour.

Further Information

If you require further information in respect of Annual Gas Safety Checks or believe your appliance has not been checked within the past 12 months please contact your landlord.

For more information on Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms, including details of responsibility for installation and testing, see: The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015:

A large print version of this document is available upon request. Contact Synod Office: 020 7799 5000

Electrical Safety


All electrical work should be installed in accordance with the Regulations for Electrical Installations issued by the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE), current edition, under British Standard BS7671.

Electrical contractors enrolled with the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC) or the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) should be employed for work in church buildings.

Inspection and Testing

It is recommended that churches have their hard wire and fixed wire electrical installations inspected and tested every five years and this will usually be stated by your insurer as a requirement. An Electrical Installation Condition Report should be carried out in accordance with IET regulations (17th Edition—amendment 3) came into force on 1st January 2015.

Local trustees (usually the Elders Meeting) should ensure that a thorough physical examination of all portable appliances is carried out regularly to ensure that worn flexes, broken plugs or sockets etc. are replaced immediately. A schedule of how and when inspection should be carried out is included on page 4. Further information on testing portable appliances is available in the Health and Safety Executive publication ‘Maintaining portable electrical equipment in low-risk environments’:


The organ can present a hazard if not cared for properly.

Lights provided for illuminating the music desk or internally to facilitate inspection of the instrument should only be installed by a qualified electrician using permanent wiring.

If a portable electric heater is required for the organist it should be of the convector or fan assisted type fitted with a thermostatic cut-out that operates in the event of overheating.

The electric organ blower is frequently overlooked as is the specialised humidifying apparatus that often sits alongside the blowing equipment. The electric organ blower should be examined at regular maintenance intervals by a qualified electrician and the inspection, maintenance or repair of pipe organs should only be entrusted to an experienced professional organ builder. Please note that the blower enclosure may contain asbestos and this should be noted on your asbestos register, or removed under controlled conditions if necessary.

Temporary Wiring

Temporary or extension wiring should only be allowed in exceptional circumstances. All temporary circuits should be physically disconnected from the mains when not in use.

Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

The Electricity at Work Regulations have a wide application and apply to most churches. They require that electrical installations are safe and regularly checked by a qualified electrician working to the current IET regulations (BS7671). Under no circumstances should an untrained person      attempt any electrical work. The Health and Safety Executive guidance notes indicate that even the changing of a light bulb or replacing a fuse should be left to trained individuals.

Electrical Installations – Part P

Part P of the Building Regulations affect all churches that have manse property or other residential property including flats within church buildings. If you are planning to extend or alter the electrical installation you must comply with Part P. This is not restricted to wholesale rewire and includes such items as providing extra sockets or adding new ceiling lights.

Since the 1st January 2005 work carried out in dwellings should be notified to a Building Control body, unless the work is being carried out by a competent person. See 2013 edition Part P of the Building Regulations 2010.

When any electrical work is carried out the trustees (elders) should ensure that a competent NICEIC approved contractor is employed.

Table for Testing Portable Appliances

Equipment / environment User checks Formal visual inspection Combined inspection and test
IT – Desktop computer etc. No Yes, 2-4 years No if double insulated
Photocopiers, fax machines (rarely moved) No Yes, 2-4 years No if double insulated
Double insulated (Class II) equipment. Not hand-held. Moved occasionally, eg fans, table lamps No Yes, 2-4 years No
Double insulated (Class II) equipment: hand-held, eg some floor cleaners, some kitchen equipment Yes Yes, 6 months – 1 year No
Earthed equipment (class 1): Electric kettles, some floor cleaners, some kitchen equipment Yes Yes, 6 months – 1 year Yes 1-2 years
Cables (leads and plugs to all equipment) and mains voltage extension leads and battery-charging equipment Yes Yes 6 months—4 years depending on the type of equipment it is connected to Yes, 1-5 years depending on the type of equipment it is connected to.

Over time, when you look at the results of user checks, visual inspections and, where appropriate, portable appliance tests, you will notice trends. These may tell you that you need to look at or test electrical equipment less (or more) often, depending on the number of problems being found. Some examples of how to do this can be found at:;e-appliance-testing.htm

A large print version of this document is available upon request. Contact Synod Office: 020 7799 5000

Church Licensing Requirements


Much of the legislation concerning licensing of premises for various uses is quite lengthy and sometimes very difficult to apply to church buildings.

This document aims to set out a step by step guide for church officers as they consider the various uses of their buildings.

The main reasons that you will need to have a licence are for:

  • Reproduction of hymns and worship songs
  • Music Reproduction Licence
  • Performing Rights Society
  • Mechanical Copyright Licence
  • Christian Video Licence
  • Phonographic Performance Licence
  • Public Entertainment Licence

Most licensing requirements can be provided for church use by the Christian Copyright Licensing International (Europe) Ltd (CCLI). Their contact details are included on the final page of this document.

Hymns and worship songs (lyrics and music)

Most churches will have the need to copy words and music of hymns and worship songs at various times each year.

CCLI are now recognised as the major licensing body for the reproduction of hymns and worship songs that are used during acts of worship.

It is possible for the licence to cover reproduction of lyrics and music to many popular songs and hymns. This reproduction can be done on overhead projector sheets and song sheets. It should also be noted that this licence allows for recording of services for church library use, weddings and funerals.

Performing Rights Society (PRS)

It is possible to obtain this licence from CCLI where the licence is to cover the performance of music on church premises other than music used in an act of worship.

These performances will include such things as discos, live concerts, dance classes, youth clubs and background music for things like coffee mornings.

If you intend to perform music outside of these it is recommended that you contact Performing Rights Society.

Public Performance Licence (PPL)

This licence is required in addition to the PRS for Music Church Licence if you play music from a commercial recording (CD, MP3 etc.) in church activities other than during Acts of Worship (regular services, weddings/funerals where no entry charge is made). A PPL Church Licence is not required to cover music on a film’s soundtrack.

Mechanical Copyright

CCLI’s Church Copyright Licence includes certain Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) rights which permit CCL holders to record services including live music performances. You should however ensure you have permission from any speakers, musicians or performers you’ll be recording.

If you record a service which includes music played from a commercial recording, this is known as dubbing, and you’ll need a Limited Manufacture Licence (LM) available directly from PRS for Music which covers rights administered by both PRS and PPL. See:

The LM also covers the recording of weddings, concerts and church choirs/bands. Although PRS for Music and PPL have waived the requirement for churches to hold licences for music played/performed during Acts of Worship, their church licences are required in addition to the LM if you are dubbing (re-recording) music during activities outside of Acts of Worship.

In addition, if you’re making church recordings available on the internet via streaming/webcasting or as a download/podcast you’ll require a Limited Online Music Licence available directly from PRS for Music.

Christian Video Licence

Churches that wish to show DVDs can apply for a licence through CCLI. The Church Video Licence provides legal cover to show videos and video discs of motion pictures. Cover includes playing just a few seconds of film all the way up to showing a full-length feature film. See contact details for CCLI.

Phonographic Performance (PPL)

You need cover from both PPL and PRS for Music when you play music recordings, because they cover different rights within the recorded work.

Where the church or venue is covered by PRS for Music adding the PPL Church Licence permits you to play commercial music recordings in a wide variety of contexts such as: Coffee Mornings, parent & toddler groups, fetes and bazaars, children and youth activities, discos and dances etc.

Public Entertainment

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport produced new guidelines in March 2015 in relation to public entertainment. As a general rule most church will not be required to have a licence for music entertainment or to put on a play or performance of dance so long as:

  • It takes place between 8.00am and 11.00pm
  • The audience is no more than 50 people.

However, some local authorities may require you to have a Premises Licence or Temporary Event Notice. A Temporary Event Notice can be used to authorise relatively small scale ad hoc events, held in or on any premises involving no more than 499 people at any one time.

Other regulated activities covered by this Act are: The sale of retail alcohol; The supply of alcohol; Provision of late night refreshment (after 11.00pm and before 5.00am).

The Licensing Authority will usually be your Local Authority and all premises are inspected by the Licensing Authority, Fire Service, Police, Health and Safety and a Environmental Health Officer.

NOTE: There may be other licence requirements that your church needs to be covered for, such as copying material from books (not music books), journals and magazines etc. If you are in doubt CCLI are usually happy to provide further advice.

CCLI, Chantry House, 22 Upperton Road, Eastbourne, BN21 1BF

Telephone: 01323 436100

A large print version of this document is available upon request. Contact Synod Office: 020 7799 5000

Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012


The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 apply and update previous regulations for the control of asbestos.

The HSE have produced guidance for anyone who is responsible for maintenance and repairs in a building which may contain asbestos – ‘The dutyholder’.

You are a ‘dutyholder’ if:

  • You own the building
  • You are responsible through an contract or tenancy agreement
  • You have control of the building

For local churches the ‘dutyholder’ is usually the trustees (elders) of the church and covers the following buildings:

  • All non-domestic buildings, churches, halls etc
  • The common areas of domestic buildings, halls, stairwells, litf shafts etc

Duty to Manage Asbestos

The duty to manage asbestos is contained in regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. It requires the person who has the duty (elders) to:

  • Take reasonable steps to find out if there are materials containing asbestos in non-domestic properties, and if so, its amount, where it is and what condition it is in;
  • Presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not;
  • Make, and keep up-to-date, a record of the location and condition of the asbestos containing materials – or materials which are presumed to contain asbestos;
  • Assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres from the materials identified;
  • Prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risks from these materials will be managed;
  • Take necessary steps to put the plan into action;
  • Periodically review and monitor the plan (annually) and the arrangements to act on it so that the plan remains relevant and up-to-date; and
  • Provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them

There is also a requirement on anyone to co-operate as far as is necessary to allow the duty holder to comply with the above requirements.

The 3 essential steps

There are three essential steps to ensure that dutyholders comply with the Regulations:

  1. Find out whether the premises contain asbestos, and, if so, where it is and what condition it is in. If in doubt, materials must be presumed to contain asbestos. If the building was built or refurbished before 2000 assume that asbestos is present, if it was built after 2000 asbestos is unlikely to be present so no further action would be required.
  2. Assess the risk; and
  3. Make a plan to manage that risk and act on it.

Basic principles

There are a number of basic principles that should be followed when dealing with materials containing or presumed to contain asbestos:

  • Asbestos is only dangerous when disturbed. If it is safely managed and contained, it doesn’t present a health hazard;
  • Don’t remove asbestos unnecessarily – removing it can be more dangerous than leaving it in place and managing it;
  • Not all asbestos materials present the same risk. The measures that need to be taken for controlling the risks from materials such as pipe insulation are different from those needed in relation to asbestos cement;
  • Don’t assume you need to bring in a specialist in every case, but if you do, make sure they are competent;
  • If you are unsure about whether certain materials contain asbestos you can presume they do and treat them as such;
  • Remember that the duty to manage is all about putting in place the practical steps necessary to protect maintenance workers and others from the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres. It is not about removing all asbestos.

Selection of a surveyor

It is recommended that you employ a competent person to deal with the asbestos survey for you. When making the appointment of a competent person you should:

  • Ask for evidence of their training and experience in such work
  • Check they are going to carry out a survey in accordance with HSE guidance. (See HSE guidance HSG264 second edition);
  • Ask for evidence that they have suitable liability insurance

Types of survey

Managing trustees (elders) must remember that the Regulation places a ‘duty to manage’. This means that it is essential that trustees at a local level arrange for    survey of all building stock and keep a record of any asbestos. This is best done by recording everything in an asbestos register which should be reviewed annually.

The types of survey are:

Management Survey

The purpose of this survey is to locate and assess the extent of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) and their condition. It is still possible to be presumptive in this type of survey, but it will usually include the need to be intrusive as material sampling will be necessary.

Refurbishment or Demolition survey

This survey is needed before any refurbishment or demolition work is carried out. This survey is used to locate and describe all ACMs in the area where the refurbishment work will take place or in the whole building if demolition is planned. It will be fully intrusive and often involve destructive inspection so that all areas where the work or demolition is to be carried out have been surveyed, tested and reported on. This type of survey will lead to removal of all materials containing asbestos to be carried out, under controlled conditions, prior to the refurbishment or demolition work being commenced.

Further Information

Further information and guidance can be found on the HSE website:

A large print version of this document is available upon request. Contact Synod Office: 020 7799 5000.

Asbestos Regulations 2017
.pdf | 571.48 KB

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005


Fire is the single-most hazard in many walks of life and accounts for millions of pounds of damage and many lives each year.  The horror of being scarred for life can become a reality by an absent-minded action or not knowing what to do when you see a fire or hear the fire alarm.

The new Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into force on 1st October 2006 with a number of changes to fire safety that affect non-domestic premises, including churches.

What does this mean for our church?

The main effect of the changes is a move towards greater emphasis on fire prevention in all non-domestic premises, including the voluntary sector.

Fire certificates have been abolished and cease to have legal status.

The Fire Safety Order applies in England and Wales. It covers ‘general fire precautions’ and other fire safety duties which are needed to protect ‘relevant persons’ in case of fire in and around most ‘premises’. The Order requires fire precautions to be put in place “where necessary” and to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances of the case.

Responsibility for complying with the Fire Safety Order rests with the ‘responsible person’. In a workplace, this is the employer and any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, eg the occupier or owner. In all other premises the person or persons in control of the premises will be responsible. If there is more than one responsible person in any type of premises, all must take all reasonable steps to work with each other. For the United Reformed Church this would be the trustees (usually elders).

It is also necessary for the responsible person to pay particular attention to those at special risk, such as the disabled and those with special needs, and must include consideration of any dangerous substance likely to be on the premises.

If you employ five or more people you must record the significant findings of the assessment.

A fire risk assessment must be carried out. This will help churches identify risks that can be removed or reduced and to decide the nature and extent of the general fire precautions that need to be taken to protect people against the fire risks that remain.

Practical Steps

This document should be read and absorbed by all the elders and employees so that you can safeguard yourself and the many people who pass through our churches week by week. It is also recommended that a copy of these procedures are passed to all users of your buildings.

These are general procedures that will require individual interpretation for your own situation. It may be necessary for you to make contact with a professional fire prevention company who will be able to give you advice regarding your buildings.

Your local Fire Officer may also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Many churches already take precautions against fire by attention to means of escape, the provision of fire extinguishers, and the use of a regularly maintained and tested alarm system.

In order to comply with the new legislation, it will be necessary to carry out a risk assessment based upon the following criteria:

  • Identify the fire hazards and calculate the risks
  • Check that a fire can be detected in a reasonable time and that people can be warned
  • Check that people can get out of the building/s safely
  • Regularly check fire-fighting equipment
  • Check that people know what to do in the event of an emergency
  • Check and maintain fire safety measures
  • Ensure you have a method for calling the Emergency Services

The above risk assessment will allow you to do the following:

  • Identify Fire Hazards
  • Identify People at Risk
  • Evaluate, Remove, Reduce and Protect from Risk
  • Record, Plan, Inform, Instruct & Train
  • Review

It is recommended that the Fire Risk Assessment is completed by a specialist independent Fire Risk Assessor and then reviewed on an annual basis and a record made in your Church Property Log.

It may also be necessary to carry out weekly, monthly, 3 monthly and 6 monthly checks. See details for the short guide to making your premises safe from fire noted on page 6 of this guidance note.

Voluntary organisations are no longer exempt from this legislation and local fire authorities will have powers to serve notice upon managing trustees (usually elders) to comply with the legislation. At worst this could mean the installation of alarm systems, emergency lighting, further provision of emergency escape routes or any other measure highlighted by the risk assessment.

Each church needs to ensure that it complies fully with this legislation. This includes assessment of the risks to ALL who come on your premises, including groups who use the premises, and not forgetting children and people with a disability.

On church premises fire hazards may include the use of lighted candles, unsafe electrical wiring and extension leads, unguarded heaters, furniture upholstery, rubbish, etc.

Loose chairs in churches should be clipped together when used in rows of four or more chairs with a maximum of twelve chairs in a row. With large assembly spaces, of 250 chairs or more, consult your local Fire Safety Officer regarding the fixing of chairs to the floor.

Doors on escape routes should be fastened for security in such a way that they can be readily opened without a key and should open out in the direction of escape.

Doors that open inwards can be fixed back (tied not wedged) to leave

the route of egress open, but this method should only be adopted where churches are used very occasionally for assemblies such as concerts or public meetings.

Boiler houses should not be used for storage of combustible materials. The door to the boiler room should be a fire door and should be kept locked. A suitable fire extinguisher should be provided outside or just inside the door. A Gas Safe registered engineer who will provide a test certificate if all is in good order should inspect any gas appliances on an annual basis.

Kitchens should not have cooking apparatus sited where, should it catch fire, it would obstruct the exit route. Cooking equipment and refrigerators should be regularly serviced.

Electrical wiring and equipment should be installed and maintained in good condition by a competent electrical engineer registered with the National Inspection Council of Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC), or the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA). It is recommended that the entire electrical system should be tested   every five years by a qualified electrical engineer.

Portable electrical appliances should be tested by a suitably qualified person in accordance with the Health and Safety Executive recommendations.

Fire-fighting equipment shall be provided in all areas. In simple premises, having one or two portable extinguishers of the appropriate type, readily available for use, may be all that is necessary. In more complex buildings, such as multi-roomed community centres, where it is considered that a number of portable extinguishers are required, they should be sited in suitable locations, such as on     escape routes at each floor level. Extinguishers should be located in areas where they are easily accessed but should only be used in the event of a fire by those competent to do so, and should not be left in areas open to misuse or vandalism. Extinguishers and other fire-fighting equipment must be properly maintained.

With the Smoke Free law introduced on 1st July 2007 all church premises should be ‘smoke-free’ and notices displayed in accordance with legislation.

As intruders cause many fires, the importance of external security measures should be explored


Common sense and knowledge of your buildings and activities should enable your church officers to take sensible and appropriate fire safety measures as required. It is suggested that a statement along the lines of the following is located in the buildings at various locations, and that ’Fire Action’ notices are displayed in appropriate positions within the building, and details passed to each organisation using the premises.

Further help and information

A series of guides have been produced by the government in order to assist those preparing fire risk assessments; these give detailed information on risk assessments and other issues. In particular see ‘A short guide to making your premises safe from fire’; ‘Small and medium places of assembly’, See:

‘Large places of assembly’, See:

NOTE: It is a legislative requirement to have one working (regularly tested) Smoke Alarm installed on every floor of a rental property used as living accommodation.

In addition, Carbon Monoxide alarms may need to be fitted in manses and rented residential property, and is a legislative requirement within and room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used.

A large print version of this document is available upon request. Contact Synod Office: 020 7799 5000.

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