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No move on Palace at Wells

07 March 2014

BISHOP'S PALACE, WELLS

AFTER being accused of presiding over a "débâcle" that left the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, facing a "baying mob", the Church Commissioners have announced that they will stick to their decision to move the home of the Bishop of Bath & Wells from the Palace (News, 7 February).

The matter was discussed by the Board of Governors of the Church Commissioners on Tuesday last week - the first meeting since it made its decision at the end of last November. On Thursday of last week, the Commissioners issued a statement confirming that this decision had been reaffirmed. This would be put in writing to the standing committee of the Bishop's Council in the diocese of Bath & Wells.

On hearing the news, a statement from the diocese said that it was "disappointed. . . We regret the Church Commissioners' unwillingness to respond to our request to discuss the issue further with them, before the Board of Governors met on 25th February."

Disappointment was also expressed by The Palace Trust, the charity that manages the Bishop's Palace and Gardens. A statement said that the Trust "still believes that having the bishop reside on site is important to our future as a heritage destination of significant national importance".

The statement from the Commissioners confirmed that the Board of Governors had examined the petition recently presented to the Secretary of the Commissioners. Organised by the MP for Wells, Tessa Munt, it was signed by more than two thousand people. The Commissioners "reiterated their understanding that the ministry of the new Bishop should not be encumbered or restricted by being housed in a place with a high level of public access which is guaranteed or even encouraged in relation to which he might be expected to fulfil a significant role."

The Commissioners' reasoning was criticised during questions put to them at last month's meeting of the General Synod (Synod, 21 February).

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