February 19, 2018
The Church of England has signed an accord with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport setting out how churches and other church properties could host new digital infrastructure.
The accord notes that:
“The [National Church Institutions] and HMG recognise that a modern telecommunications infrastructure is vital for a vibrant economy and inclusive society. By working together with mobile and broadband providers, we believe that we can help deliver improved connectivity, particularly in rural areas, and thereby bring about important practical benefits to congregations, local communities, local businesses and visitors alike.
We recognise that it may be possible to use some Church of England churches and other Church-held buildings or land to host digital infrastructure. This Accord recognises that, consistent with the long-standing role played by church buildings as a focus of community cohesion and spirit, by encouraging the wider use of such assets we can help improve connectivity and its consequential benefits to those areas where coverage does not currently exist, or where it is of poorer quality.”
However, it also states that:
“Individual parishes, and others with responsibility for Church buildings and land, will need to consider all the factors concerned with using Church land or buildings to host digital connectivity infrastructure. This Accord encourages them to do so within the context of their own priorities for mission, relevant planning controls, and their legal obligations both as an organisation and relating to the care of Church property, and appropriate guidance provided by the Church Buildings Council and Historic England. This recognises that the Church comprises a number of autonomous entities and office holders with different legal obligations and that the property may also be subject to third party agreements. Such entities may also have their own aspirations for the use and development of their properties in support of the Church’s mission. Similarly, dioceses will, through their Diocesan Advisory Committees, need to balance the identified benefits of telecoms provision in the particular circumstances of the parish with other relevant factors.”