What is a statement of significance?

A statement of significance is a requirement for all listed church buildings and unlisted church buildings in a conservation area, where changes to the building are proposed. It forms an important part of the internal planning approval process (Ecclesiastical Exemption) for making changes to the church building, by providing an overview of its historic significance (including fabric, liturgical style, contents and where applicable the churchyard).

The length of the document will depend on the significance of the asset and could be as little as a couple of A4 sheets to something in greater depth. It should remain a working document and reviewed at least annually or when changes or additions have been made to the building or fabric.

A statement of significance underpins good stewardship of the church building. It should not be used to prevent change, but rather to help churches understand their historic asset and ensure that the impact of any changes have been fully considered and are appropriate to their setting. It should accompany a statement of need and be in place before a church embarks on any or re-ordering or changes to historic fabric.

The Church Buildings Council provides an excellent template to help churches complete their statement of significance. Broadly the document should include:

A brief history of the church

  • How has the building evolved and changed?
  • Who has been associated with it (for example, architect, craftsman or benefactors).
  • Are there significant architectural or ecclesiastical features? It can be helpful to include a plan to help show how it has developed over time and what changes have taken place.

Architectural / ecclesiastical significance

  • What is the national / local listing of the building?
  • Is the building of local / national / international significance?
  • Are there significant architectural or ecclesiastical features / styles or contents?

Community and landscape setting

  • What contemporary and / or historical contribution does the church building make to the area and local community?
  • What is the history of the churchyard, has it changed over time?
  • Does it include monuments or war memorials of architectural or historical importance? Are they listed?
  • Are there archaeological remains?
  • Are there important habitats, protected species, rare flora and fauna, Tree Preservation Orders, ancient or vintage trees?

Completing a statement of significance will require research, which in itself can become part of the missional activity of the church. Building relationships with community groups, organisations and individuals to explore and document the churches history and better understand the ecology of the churchyard can be a positive way of engaging people in the life of the church and raise the profile of the church building.

Resources to help develop a statement of significance