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Repairs land parish council in court

28 February 2014

EMERGENCY repairs to a churchyard wall are to be reported to the Exeter Consistory Court amid claims that the civic parish council ignored the conditions on a faculty when it carried out the work.

Responsibility for maintaining the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Willand, in Devon, passed to Willand Parish Council after it closed to burials in 1968.

In recent years, the retaining wall around the churchyard (right) began to lean. An emergency faculty was granted last year for urgent work to rebuild a section of the wall, after large cracks began to appear. It has been said that the council failed to send an archaeological report and a photograph showing a sample panel of stone facing to the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) for approval before the wall was pointed.

"These conditions were included in the faculty that was sent to the parish council and . . . the secretary of the DAC reminded the parish council of them when the council started the work," a spokesperson for the diocese of Exeter said.

"This matter is currently being looked into and will be reported to the Consistory Court. Clearly it is important that everyone, including the parish council, complies with the law and, in the same way that local planning authorities ensure compliance with conditions attached to planning consents and listed-building consents, the Church needs to investigate where it is alleged this has not happened."

The parish council has hit back at the claims. The Mid Devon Gazette has quoted a letter from the parish clerk, Tracy Leamon, to the diocese, which says: "The council feels it has acted correctly and does not deserve this unwarranted and unjustified correspondence. . . These concerns, coupled with the style of your letter which is designed to intimidate . . . has resulted in a request from the parish councillors that we discuss our relationship between the church and diocese with respect to the maintenance of the church graveyard, which costs all members of the parish whatever their religion or belief."

The diocesan spokesperson said: "The DAC has been in conversation with the parish council for several years over this. . . we will continue to try to resolve this amicably." Work to the wall is reported to have cost £30,000 - more than double the original estimate of £12,000.


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