Alterations and extensions

The SPAB champions good new design, where appropriate, for historic buildings. Explore guidance on alterations and extensions.

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Historic floors in churches

In recognition of the increasing number of applications for alterations to listed places of worship that include the partial or complete replacement of an existing floor, the SPAB and the Church Buildings Council (CBC) have set out guidance about the care and maintenance of old floors, as well as the issues that should be taken into account when a congregation is considering altering or replacing a floor. Download the historic floors guidance note.

Reusing old buildings

Many historic buildings have well-established and appropriate uses. However, in some cases, a whole or partial change of use is required to ensure a structure’s future; its sustainability, repair and protection. Reuse is the name given to the process of reusing or adapting an historic building for a purpose other than that for which it was designed or built. Creative reuse and adaptation can contribute positively to a building’s history. Equally, inappropriate re-use can significantly detract from a building or structure's special interest.

Alterations and extensions to listed buildings

Achieving the correct balance between protecting the special interest of a listed building and proposals for alterations and extensions is a tricky task. Some buildings are more likely to be able to accommodate change than others. The extent to which a building can sustain alteration or extension will depend on building type and significance and the merit of the new work. Some buildings may be sensitive to even slight alterations whilst others may be less so.

Guidance on telecommunications installations in churches

The SPAB is aware of the increased number of proposals to utilise church towers and spires for the accommodation of mobile telephone aerials. One or more aerials may be concealed in a church (for example, within a tower or flagpole) or attached to the masonry externally. While recognising the possible financial benefit to churches, the Society urges that those responsible for such projects consider the potential impact on the character and aesthetic quality of buildings of historical or architectural importance.
The SPAB technical panel offers the following practical guidance:

Electrical installations

Advice on considering hertiage when installing electricity into old buildings and why this work requires extra skill.


Heating in churches: a cautionary note on underfloor heating

There have been many recent schemes to install underfloor heating in places of worship and the SPAB is extremely concerned that irreversible damage is being caused to  important historic buildings as a result.  Installations are also often failing to meet user expectations. This document is intended to highlight considerations that should be borne in mind by those contemplating whether or not to install underfloor heating in a historic church. It is important that historic churches are used, cared for and survive.

Guidance on church extensions

The SPAB receives a substantial number of applications for extensions to church buildings every year.  Some are for modest extensions to accommodate a toilet and small kitchen area whilst others are rather more ambitious schemes that include additional meeting rooms, offices and storage as well.  Whilst some schemes are well designed and complement the existing building, many others have a detrimental impact on the historic fabric and character of the church.


We are concerned that excavating beneath a property to create a basement will have a profound impact upon the historic fabric of the building