Quinquennial inspections

The legal background

Under the Inspection of Churches Measure 1955, each Diocese must establish a scheme for the inspection of every church building, and the preparation of a report on the condition of the building, by an architect or surveyor, every five years.

As the majority of churches in the Diocese of Ely are Grade I or II* Listed Buildings, it is essential that the person carrying out the inspection and preparing the subsequent report is a suitably qualified professional with experience of working with historic church buildings.

It is the responsibility of each PCC to appoint an architect or surveyor for their church, but to assist parishes in appointing someone with the necessary knowledge and experience, the Church Buildings Department maintains a list of architects and surveyors who have the qualifications and expertise to fulfil this role.

This list is available to PCCs upon request.

Benefits of the system

This regular system of review is designed to ensure that church buildings are kept in good repair, and the reports are therefore required to highlight works which are urgent and those which are likely to be needed before the next inspection.

Usually, some rough idea of costs may be provided, to give the PCC some guidance on the extent of the works required, but this will only be indicative and should not be relied upon as if it were a builder’s price for the work.

Process

When a church's next quinquennial inspection is due, the Church Buildings Department will inform the Secretary of the PCC early that year, to allow for the inspection to take place at the appropriate time. A form to commission the work from your QI inspector will be provided, along with an outline of the scope of the report, but most architects/surveyors on the Diocesan list will have their own template covering the information needed.

Upon receipt of the reminder, the PCC should contact their architect and arrange a convenient date for the inspection to be carried out.The report should be written up within one month of the date of the inspection.

The architect/surveyor should send copies of the report to the PCC (an electronic copy plus one or two hard copies as required), and an electronic copy to the Church Buildings Department at the Diocese.This copy will also be accessible to the Archdeacons.

Fees for Inspections

Currently, the Ely Diocesan Board of Finance pays for the cost of the inspection and report at the flat fee of £600 per church (plus reasonable travel and printing expenses, and VAT, if charged).

Most architects and surveyors on the Diocesan list will carry out the work for this sum, but a few will charge more, particularly for large churches. If this is the case, this should be made clear by the architect at the outset of the relationship with the PCC, as the PCC will be liable for the additional cost.

This is something PCCs should check when appointing a new architect/ surveyor.

Upon completion of the QI Report, the architect/surveyor should be advised to send their invoice for the fee to the Church Buildings Department at DAC@elydiocese.org along with a copy of the report, so that payment of the fee can be arranged.

How to use the QI Report

When the report is received, it is the responsibility of the PCC to consider it carefully and to see that, as far as possible, the work recommended in the report is carried out.

The report is not a specification for the works. It simply assesses the condition of the building and identifies works which are necessary and how urgent they are.

It does not describe the full scope of those works or how they should be done, so the report should not simply be shown to a builder to be used as the basis for a quote for the work. Ideally, the architect should prepare a full specification and schedule of works which can be used to obtain quotes, and then they should also supervise the works on site.

However, it is not an absolute requirement that the works identified in the QI report are specified and supervised by the QI architect/ surveyor. Some works highlighted might be simple good practice maintenance issues, which the PCC can deal with themselves, or fairly minor repairs which a competent local builder, with experience of working on historic buildings, can undertake without supervision. Much depends on the scope and complexity of the work.

If in doubt, the Church Buildings Department can advise on how best to proceed, and in all cases, the church architect should be kept informed.

Consents

Most repair works identified in a QI Report will probably require consent, but most repairs are now covered by List B and do not require full faculty consent, but please check Lists A and B or consult the Church Buildings Department if in any doubt.

Choosing a new architect

Many PCCs keep the same architect for many years to help them care for their church building and there are many benefits to this. Ideally, a strong relationship of trust should be established.

This should mean that members of the PCC feel able to telephone their architect for advice on small matters of concern as they arise in between quinquennial inspections, without the fear of being charged excessive fees for just a few minutes’ conversation; and the architect gains a thorough knowledge of the building and gets to know the aims, aspirations and finances of the PCC, so they can advise on how best to keep the building in good repair so that it meets the needs of the local community, within the means of the parish.

However, from time to time, architects retire or move away, or for some reason it becomes necessary to make a new appointment. When this happens, it is worth taking a bit of time to consider a number of candidates so that you appoint someone you can work with successfully over a good many years.

Apart from this being good practice, it is also helpful if you need to apply for grants. Particularly if you need to apply for substantial sums, grant giving bodies often require that the supervising architect has been appointed following competitive tendering.

If you went through this process to appoint them as the QI architect, and have the records to prove it, this is often sufficient and means that you do not have to do this again, at the point when your architect has already carried out some preparatory work, and avoids the awkward embarrassment of, essentially, reapplying for a position they feel they already hold.

The Church of England's national guidance on appointing a QI architect can be found by clicking here.