The Swedish government has asked The Swedish National Heritage Board to review and propose changes to the legislation concerning the ecclesiastical cultural heritage.
The Heritage Conservation Act includes protection of place names, ancient monuments, listed buildings, ecclesiastical cultural heritage, as well as the export and return of unlawfully removed cultural goods. The Act´s fourth chapter includes regulations concerning church buildings, church sites, ecclesiastical furnishings and cemeteries.
Church buildings built, and church sites established, before the end of 1939 may not be altered in any significant respect without permission from the County Administrative Board. Church buildings, for the purposes of the Act, are buildings consecrated for the rites of the Church of Sweden before 1 January 2000 and owned or managed by the Church of Sweden or any of its organizational parts on 1 January 2000.
In June 2013 the bill Diversity of the historic environment (2012/13:96) was approved by the Swedish Parliament. The Bill contains new national objectives for historic environment initiatives. It also includes amendments to The Heritage Conservation Act. Amendments relating to the ecclesiastical cultural heritage imply that the County Administrative Boards will take over responsibility from the Swedish National Heritage Board for certain decisions regarding more contemporary churches and cemeteries. Other amendments concerning the fourth chapter are mainly editorial.
Various stakeholders criticized the fourth chapter of the Heritage Conservation Act when the bill was referred to them. Criticism concerned subjects such as ambiguities in the interpretation of several concepts in the legislation. Another critique concerned how the protection of church buildings that are no longer owned by the Church of Sweden should be arranged. There was also a desire to review the possibility of abolish a protection under the fourth chapter of The Heritage Conservation Act.
In light of this critique, the government has assigned the Swedish National Heritage Board to review and, if deemed, propose changes to the legislation concerning the ecclesiastical cultural heritage.
The assignment should be carried out in consultation with the Swedish church, the County administrative Boards and other stakeholders and be reported on 30 September 2015.
Lotta Eriksson Kockum
Swedish National Heritage Board