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Stottesdon church u-turn on archaic law
8:00am Monday 21st April 2014 in News
A CHURCH that registered its right to make residents pay for repairs under an archaic law has decided to go back on the decision after causing outrage.
St Mary’s Church, Stottesdon, has asked charity regulator the Charity Commission to remove its registration following outcry in the village.
Stunned residents received a letter from the Land Registry earlier this year stating the church could make them fork out for the upkeep of the building under the chancel repair liability law, passed by King Henry VIII.
About 21 land owners in the village could be caught out by the legislation, which states they are legally obliged to fund repair costs at the church.
Although the church has asked to remove its registration the liability would still remain on the properties under the law, however.
Anni Holden, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Hereford, explained: "The church has asked the Charity Commission to remove its registration because of the upset in the village.
"It will cost them more in their charitable aims to collect the money than to not collect the money. This is about potential money - no-one has had a demand for money."
She said there would be no chancel repairs liable in Stottesdon in the near future, adding the church registered as it had a legal right to do so.
"The chancel is only the bit of the church with the altar, "she added. "It's only about a very small area of the church. Not everybody was upset and not everybody has objected."
Resident Elaine Hession, who was left devastated after receiving a letter from the Land Registry in February, described the church's decision as a step in the right direction but added she wanted something in writing to say they would never be pursued for repairs.
"Only then will we be able to draw a line under this very stressful matter," she said.
She added the church could re-register its claim with the Land Registry, adding: "Then we are back to the same position where our property is devalued and unsaleable".
She has now set up a facebook page - facebook.com/chancelrepairliability - where people affected by the liability can get support.
South Shropshire MP Phillip Dunne has also welcomed the church's rethink, branding the original claim a "perverse way" to get people to pay repair costs.
“At one of my recent advice surgeries I received a large delegation of many owners of property in the Stottesdon parish, who had been served with a notice of liability by their Parochial Church Council to maintain and repair the chancel of the local parish church," he said.
"I appreciate that church buildings require upkeep and that this is a considerable drain on resources of churches, in particular the Church of England in Shropshire, but relying on ancient tithes little understood and, I suspect, long since abandoned in practice, seems a perverse way to seek to encourage local communities to help raise running and repair costs for their local church.
"This issue was causing considerable anxiety for local homeowners, so I welcome this step from the Parochial Parish Council."
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