What is a Statement of Significance?

What is a Statement of Significance?

A Statement of Significance is a detailed description of the development of a building and its life. It is factual, making an objective and informed assessment of the relative merits or ‘significance’ of aspects or features. These can be physical features, or aspects of social or historical significance, such as famous people associated with the building, memorials or events that happened nearby.

A Statement will help you understand and care for what you have and make informed decisions about any proposed changes. It should draw on related sources such as the listing description, scheduling, historic environment records etc. for core material. More information about accessing these sources is available as you go through the toolkit.

It is also a ‘live’ document, in that the importance or significance of some elements will change through time. You are therefore encouraged to keep your Statement of Significance up-to-date, reflecting not only recent changes or additions but also new discoveries about the building's past.

Why is a Statement of Significance needed?

A Statement of Significance must accompany any application for consent that proposes significant changes to a listed place of worship, whether through the Listed Building Consent process operated by local authorities or through the denominational Advisory systems of the Baptist Union, Methodist, United Reformed and Roman Catholic Churches and the Church of England. However, such statements are useful aids for decision-making in all denominations and faiths. Done well, it will be an invaluable record of your place of worship against which you can assess the likely impact of ideas for physical changes, new projects or new uses – helping you work out ways to minimise any adverse effects.

Who should create the Statement?

It can also form a really useful ‘handbook’ for people taking on new roles, familiarising them not only with the building's physical structure and its contents, but also with the role it plays in the community and what people outside the immediate congregation use and value. Kept up to date it will gradually form the background to any discussions around growth and change.

When should I create one?

Ideally, a Statement of Significance should be created without any specific project in mind, not when a plan has already emerged which needs to be justified. This will avoid any unconscious ‘slanting’ that favours a particular outcome, ensuring engagement with the various amenity societies is constructive and open. If and when plans are proposed, the key relationships have already been established and views on the relative importance of features are known.

Who should create the Statement?

It is good if a wide range of people can contribute to creating a Statement of Significance. Every place of worship will have aspects that require specific, often professional, expertise to identify, describe and evaluate. It is therefore important that specialist expertise is used appropriately.

However, it is not necessary (or even really desirable) for a Statement to be written entirely by an external consultant. It is just as important that the significance of a feature or aspect to the community is recognised and recorded as it is for the architectural, archaeological or art historical merit to be assessed.

Your Statement of Significance should be your document that tells your building's story.