Diocese protests as Bishop's palace is deemed 'unsuitable'

31 January 2014

BISHOP'S PALACE, WELLS

Fit for a bishop: the moated Bishop's Palace at Wells

Fit for a bishop: the moated Bishop's Palace at Wells

DESPITE opposition, including that of the diocese, there will be no review or reversal of the decision to move the official residence of the Bishop of Bath & Wells from the Palace in Wells, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, said on Saturday.

At a meeting at Wells Museum, organised by Tessa Munt, the MP for Wells, Sir Tony said that the Church Commissioners had made the decision "on the grounds of suitability - not on some doctrinaire view that Bishops should no longer live in palaces". The "overwhelming majority" of diocesan bishops lived in a detached house that was "very clearly their own family home".

The decision had been reached after "careful thought and consideration", including discussions with the Bishop's staff and those working at the Palace, he said. "I would hope that it would be recognised that this decision, having been taken and decided, is not now going to be reviewed or reversed by the Church Commissioners."

It is the intention of the Commissioners to find the new Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, a home in Wells within walking distance of the cathedral. In the mean time, a former rectory has been bought as temporary accommodation.

On Friday, the Bishop of Taunton, the Rt Revd Peter Maurice, and other senior staff of the diocese of Bath & Wells, including all three Archdeacons, voiced opposition to the Commissioners' decision.

A statement said that the Commissioners had "failed to undertake effective consultation at a local level. Instead, they have taken a unilateral decision which has, sadly, cast a shadow over the announcement of our next Bishop. Based on the scarce information made available to us by the Commissioners, the diocese cannot support their decision."

Earlier this month, Mrs Munt said: "One of the charms of the Palace was the possibility that one just might run into the Bishop or his wonderful wife in the grounds; and, in my view, it is a great shame that the chances of being blessed in this way are reduced almost to nothing."

Interview with next Bishop of Bath and Wells

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