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Bid to block churchyard school fails

09 January 2015

JOHN SALMON

A GROUP of campaigners failed in an attempt to prevent a community centre in the gardens of Christ Church, Spitalfields, from being oc­­cu­­pied by a school (News, 28 June 2013). The group, Spitalfields Open Space ("the applicants"), was set up by local people to campaign for the demolition of the community hall used by Christ Church Primary School. In August last year, they applied to the Consistory Court of the diocese of London for a restora­tion order under the pro­visions of the Care of Churches and Eccles­iastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991.

In February 2012, the Chancellor of the diocese of London, his Honour the Wor­shipful Judge Seed QC, granted a faculty for the dis­mantling of a youth-centre site in the gardens of the church, for the development of a single-storey school and community building in its place, and for it to be used as a school during school hours in accordance with a licence agree­ment that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets had with the gov­ernors of the school and the PCC of Christ Church.

The applicants said that the grant of the faculty and the erection of the building were unlawful, in that they were in contravention of the Dis­used Burial Grounds Act 1833. They asserted that they had drawn atten­tion to that breach of statute when the faculty was granted in 2012, but it had been disregarded.

In light of that assertion, Chan­cellor Seed sent for the original faculty file, and, having gone through all the original material, said that the points of objection to the faculty did not include one based on the Dis­used Burial Grounds Act. None of the objec­tions provided grounds for refusing permission for a replace­ment build­ing, which by that time already had planning permission from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, as well as the support of English Heritage, and the DAC.

The Chancellor said that all the points that were now raised by the applicants could and should have been raised in response to the ori­ginal petition for the faculty. No appeal was mounted after the faculty was granted, and the Chan­cellor said that, in his judg­ment, "this application is nothing more than an attempt to re-litigate settled issues long out of time."

The applicants were ordered to pay the governors of Christ Church School, the Vicar and church­ward­ens of Christ Church, the London Diocesan Board for Schools, and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets any costs that they had incurred.

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