Fire risk sinks civil partnership licence

November 1st, 2012 | by Nick Kostov

Newington Green Unitarian Church

A church was again denied a licence to perform same sex civil partnerships this week after failing a health and safety inspection – but it can continue to host weddings.

A fire risk assessment was quickly arranged for Newington Green Unitarian Church after The Hackney Post exposed the delay in inspecting the premises following the Church’s application for a civil partnership licence last February.

The inspection was carried out at 11am on Tuesday by Dave Twyman from the Fire Authority. He ruled the Church needs two fire doors, emergency lighting and more smoke detectors before the licence can be granted.

The Reverend Andy Pakula, Minister at Newington Green Unitarian Church, called the difference in standards between marriages and civil partnerships ‘absurd’ and ‘an outrage.’

He responded ironically to the latest set of demands: “I guess gay people must generate more heat than straight ones. It’s a list of pretty trivial things to wait the best part of a year for,” he said.

The fire inspection is the only incomplete part of the church’s application and Rev. Pakula expects the licence to be granted automatically once the conditions are met.

Newington Green Church could then become the first church in London to host a same sex civil partnerships, the Reverend believes.

It has also emerged that a more stringent building control inspection was carried out by Hackney Council a few months ago but the Church was unwilling to meet the costs arising from its results.

The Council asked instead for a fire assessment, which it argued was a minimum requirement. Rev. Pakula called the Council’s demands ‘arbitrary.’

Registrar rules say the Council have no obligation to perform such checks.

But in an email, Julia Campbell, the Senior Ceremonies Officer at Hackney Council in charge of the application, defended the decision to press ahead with the inspection.

She said: “The Registrar General registers buildings for marriages under different legislation which are not the province of the local authority.

“As the licensing authority, the Council takes very seriously its responsibility to ensure that fire safety requirements are met before it grants a licence to a building.”

 

One Comment

  1. Jane Dawson says:

    The decision of Hackney Council comes as no surprise to me. Quakers have been logging the responses of Local Authorities around the country as they register Quaker Meeting Houses for Civil Partnerships, inconsistencies abound. Councils sometimes charge 3 times as much as their neighbour to carry out the same fire inspection. Same sex couples in Hampshire have to pay toward the Fire and Rescue Service, whilst opposite sex couples can wed happily in the knowledge that they are been subsided by the gay community for any 999 call they make. Quaker Central Offices, Friends House, in Euston was approved by Camden Council as a venue Civil Partnerships in August. The first Civil Parthership in a religious building in London was held in Friends House on 1st September. No additional fire inspection was required.