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Council faces £12,000 bill to repair churchyard wall

23 October 2020

John Salmon/St Mary, Attleborough, Norfolk

St Mary, Attleborough, in Norfolk

St Mary, Attleborough, in Norfolk

A TOWN council faces a bill of almost £12,000 to repair a churchyard wall, after discovering that it had been missed off its insurance.

The wall at St Mary’s, Attleborough, in Norfolk, is owned by the diocese of Norwich, but Attleborough Town Council is responsible for its maintenance. So, when it was badly damaged by vehicles in two separate crashes this year, officials checked their policy, only to find that, when it was renewed in 2019, the wall was not included.

The situation, described as “embarrassing” by one councillor, was made worse last week when members were told that one of the drivers who crashed was not insured, and the other had failed to respond to requests for payment. They have now asked officials to explain the omission.

At the council’s monthly meeting, on Monday of last week, its solicitors reported that the uninsured driver had accepted liability, but, as he had been banned from driving for a year, and lost his job as a result, he could not afford to pay the £8500 fine; he suggested a payment plan, or doing voluntary work to reduce the total.

The lawyers suggested that the council could take the other driver to the small-claims court, but the legal costs could exceed the debt. Their bill is already more than £1100.

The mayor of Attleborough, Philip Leslie, told the council meeting: “It is a long-standing, legally held principle that town councils are responsible for the grounds of local churches. We are exploring why it was not insured, and will be discussing how we can claim the money back.”

The town clerk, Gina Lopes, said that the insurance schedule was considered and resolved annually by all councillors, but that there had never been any direction to add the church wall.

The Rector of Attleborough with Besthorpe, the Revd Matthew Jackson, said: “We’re all grateful that the churchyard wall has been repaired, after two cars crashed into it in a short time. The workmen have done a wonderful job, despite having to work around the lockdown restrictions. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and the town council will hopefully be able to recoup some of the expenditure from the drivers’ insurance.”

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