Chancel-repair liability: PCC given dispensation

24 August 2012

SAFFRON BLAZE

A CHURCH in Worcestershire has been told by the Charity Commissioners that it would be "reasonable" for it to decide not to register chancel-repair liability (CRL) against 30 households in its parish ( News, 3 August).

The PCC of St Eadburgha's, Broadway (above), began the process of registering liability during an interregnum, after advice from the legal advisory commission of the General Synod, which encouraged PCCs to "register their interest at HM Land Registry". Parishioners were unhappy about the process.

When the Revd Michelle Massey was appointed Priest-in-Charge, she looked for a way forward. Working with the diocese and the MP for Mid Worcestershire, Peter Luff, she contacted the Charity Commission for "Formal Advice" under Section 110 of the Charities Act 2011, arguing that enforcing their CRL "asset" would impair the mission of the church in their community.

The Charity Commission's advice means that the PCC members are protected from any personal liability for breach of trust that may have arisen if they had not registered the liability. Responding to the Charity Commission's advice, Ms Massey said: "It's great that we've managed to get this formal advice. It really is the best outcome for us."

The Charity Commission's advice is specific to Broadway. Other PCCs wanting to follow suit must approach the Commission for their own advice. A Commission spokesperson said: "For us to provide Section 110 advice on a particular decision, the PCC must demonstrate that all the relevant circumstances have been properly considered.

"In any decision about whether to enforce the liability, there needs to be a demonstration that the financial costs of surveying, identifying, and registering the liabilities have been properly considered in relation to the value of the potential asset."

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, welcomed the ruling. "It may be that Broadway's experience will help others, and precipitate a more concerted national approach."

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