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Parish reversal on Chancel Repair Liability

02 May 2014

JOHN SALMON/GEOGRAPH.ORG.UK

"Living out the message": St Mary's, Stottesdon 

"Living out the message": St Mary's, Stottesdon 

A PARISH in Shropshire has reversed its decision to register Chancel Repair Liability (CRL) notices against 25 homes after a publicity campaign by affected homeowners.

The PCC of St Mary's, Stottesdon, near Bridgnorth, took the decision after a Facebook page set up to oppose the plans received widespread media coverage in the area. Local residents said they were "stunned" when the Land Registry told them that it was proposed to register the liability.

The Facebook page has attracted more than 680 "likes", and has attracted a large number of negative comments. One user, Roger Hughes, said: "Having to pay a relatively rich institution for the upkeep of a building where an imaginary sky wizard is worshipped? You couldn't make it up. Well, they did in the 1500s (or whenever it was the law was created) but I think we've moved on a bit since then - or I hope we have."

Another, Chris Valder, said: "I still hold the Church of England 100 per cent responsible for this mess. They claim they are also against CRL (pause for laughter) but had the opportunity to issue clear instructions to their PCCs not to register any claims against families and individuals. Instead, they left it to a bunch of volunteer, sometimes vindictive, amateurs to impose their own prejudices."

 Speaking to the BBC, the Priest-in-Charge of Stottesdon, the Revd Colin Resch, said: "The Christian faith has much to say about healing and reconciliation, and this decision will help us to live out the message that we preach."

The Facebook-page owners described the decision as "the morally right one, and very good news to the community", but they warned that the notices could be re-registered at any time. "Those property owners affected would like a deed of relinquishment from the PCC, stating that they will never pursue us for chancel repair liability, and hopefully this will restore the value to our properties," they said. "Maybe then we can all put this behind us, and unite once more as a community."

The passing of a legal deadline on 13 October last year means that Chancel Repair Liability lapses on any properties sold since that date unless the liability has been regis-tered; but the liability can still be registered, where it exists, on property that has not been sold since that deadline (News, 11 October 2013).

After a campaign by the MP for Mid-Worcestershire, Peter Luff, the Charity Commission issued revised guidance last year giving PCCs the authority to decide against regis-tering the liability if doing so would damage the mission and ministry of the Church. Before that, the C of E's guidance warned that PCC members could be personally liable if they failed to protect the church's "asset".

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