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SYNOD: Questions

by
21 February 2014

THE Church Commissioners faced seven questions about the decision to move the home of the Bishop of Bath & Wells from the Palace. Answers were given by the Third Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Mackie,

The vice-chair of the House of Laity, Tim Hind (Bath and Wells), asked whether, "in the light of significant local opposition", the Commissioners would consider a moratorium to review the decision. Mr Mackie said that he could not prejudge what the Board would or would not do. But the decision had been taken "after a long period of thought and discussion".

The Revd Mark Steadman (Southwark) suggested that this was "not the first memorable example of such a débâcle", and referred to the Octavia Hill estates. He asked for a process for consultation and appeal.

Mr Mackiesaid that hedid not recognise the description of recent events as a débâcle. The factors that had been uppermost in the Commissioners' minds when making the decision were "those that affect the ability of the Bishop to carry out his ministry in the way he wishes to carry it out and not being restricted by any particular constraints. It would be unfortunate were he to find himself in the middle of a busy tourist attraction." The second point was that "the Bishop needs to be not distracted by the expectation that he will be overly involved in the running of the Palace." The criteria were not primarily financial, but related to privacy.

Prebendary Stephen Lynas (Bath & Wells) suggested that the visit by the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, had not been a "huge success. Why was this conversation not taken before the decision was taken rather than him having to face a baying mob?"

Mr Mackie said that the review of the palace was carried out "at a time that is entirely consistent with other reviews of this nature; at a time thought to be the least disruptive". He also said that buying another home for the Bishop was "not revenue expenditure. It's an investment."

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