Context 169 - September 2021

36 C O N T E X T 1 6 9 : S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 1 schemes above attest to the value of site visits and dialogue. The process of consultation with the amen- ity societies is still reliant on DACs identifying where they consider proposals are likely to affect the character of the listed building (and chancellors identifying if consultation should have taken place and has not). DAC officers come from a diverse range of backgrounds, but many now have an academic qualification in a discipline relevant to historic buildings, so can make authoritative assessments of impact. Even where officers do not have formal qualifications, national conferences provide training in all aspects of heritage and conservation in order to better equip all DACs. In recent years, the IHBC has had several initiatives to support DAC officers in exploring membership, recognising that many have extensive real-world experience in the field of building conservation. An informed DAC staff ensures not only that consultation is not missed for proposals that merit it, but also avoids over-consultation, which could clutter the inboxes of already stretched amenity society caseworkers. Some amenity societies such as the SPAB have sought to define the scope and type of works that it wishes to be consulted on, having attended and presented on the subject at regional DAC conferences in recent years. The Church Buildings Council (although not an amenity society) has defined when it needs to be consulted and also has a precedents document – both of which are public documents that are hugely helpful for PCCs in understanding the expectations on them and what kind of works are more likely to gain sup- port. There could be merit in amenity societies adopting a similar approach. From experience, most PCCs welcome con- structive advice to help them look after and get the best out of their buildings. They are mostly made up of people who are not experts in historic buildings so, although they may realise that their buildings are special, they do not necessarily know how to articulate this in the language of heritage professionals or what best practice looks like. The amenity societies have a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be brought in to enhance proposals for works to church buildings. The recent changes to the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules enhance the possibility of PCCs tapping into that early on. That is not to say that challenges do not remain to achieving best practice – particularly given a lack of resources inhibiting how far the amenity societies can afford to engage with every case and what PCCs can afford to spend – but early consultation will hopefully be a more construc- tive use of resources. There will always be contested applications, particularly for larger schemes and in more sig- nificant churches. But where there is engagement and dialogue early on, it is possible to achieve positive compromises, which balance caring for and retaining heritage and character alongside ensuring that buildings meet modern worship and community needs, enabling them to remain financially viable and in use as public assets. Top Church, Dudley, following the removal of the Victorian pews from the Georgian building (Photo: Top Church, Dudley) Lisa McIntyre is team leader for church buildings and pastoral reorganisation in the Anglican Diocese of Leeds. Prior to this she worked for the Church Buildings Council.