The access and sensory challenges posed by church buildings are significant, especially in the Church of England. An approach including nationally endorsed generic fabric changes by architectural period; requiring churches seeking to make fabric changes to present comprehensive access development roadmaps; and mandating consideration of community need in regard to hygiene related proposals.
Nationally endorsed generic changes by architectural period
The Church of England’s built estate is sufficiently large that there are few truly ‘unique’ examples or architecture from a given period. That is not to say, of course that there are no uniquely ‘valuable’ buildings
The Church Buildings Council or some other suitable body could draw up portfolios of generic adaptions for different architectural periods, with the cooperation of disability organisations, architectural professionals and ‘historical societies’. Parishes considering alterations could be assured that
- these adaptions are proven both in functional and civil engineering terms.
- Faculty applications for projects clearly using an appropriate generic design will be warranted to be favourably looked on by Diocesan Advisory Committees
Currently much expertise (above diocesan level) in alterations is vested in commercial architectural practices. This liberates this experience for the common good, and equips parishes to understand what sorts of adaption might work for their building, allowing them to focus on planning for development.
Comprehensive access development roadmap
Diocesan Advisory Committees (who grant planning approvals) should insist that any change to church buildings which has at its core sensory, hygiene or physical access adjustments be accompanied by a definite outline plan (including initial drawings) indicating a roadmap of all major changes necessary to ensure that the building will be no impediment to welcoming the whole community including the full spectrum of disabilities.
Presently it is possible for a parish to request a faculty (planning permission) for hygiene alterations, for example the provision of disabled toilet), when the relevant building continues to rely on a system of portable ramps to provide disability access. This provision combats the present non-sensical situation.
Community need consideration for any hygiene related change
Churches should be mandated to consider community benefit when changing hygiene provisions in their building, for example by altering toilets, installing disabled facilities, or changing areas.
For example a church installing disabled toilets should consider whether it can improve wider community accessibility through provision of a space meeting the Changing Places standard