A VILLAGE community that appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury for support in its efforts to convert a former church school into affordable homes has been told that he is powerless to intervene.
People in the Yorkshire Dales hamlet of Arkengarthdale, near Richmond, contacted Archbishop Welby after the PCC was told that it was legally obliged to accept a higher offer for the former village primary school, which closed last year (News, 21 August). They hoped that the Archbishop, who last year launched a commission to examine the housing crisis (News, 12 April 2019), would back their case. But, this week, Lambeth Palace told them: “Unfortunately, the Archbishop is unable to intervene in this situation, as this is a matter for the parish and the diocese outside of his jurisdiction.”
It continued: “The Archbishop is indeed concerned about the availability of suitable affordable housing. The Commission will look into various issues around housing and examine how the Church might use its land and resources to contribute in this area. This will include consideration of the current legal duty to maximise profits, among other relevant matters.”
Stephen Stubbs, who chairs the Upper Dales Community Land Trust, whose bid of £150,000 was topped by one for £185,000 from an unknown buyer, said: “We are morally justified in our case, and appealing for diocesan officials to reconsider. What will the Church spend £185,000 on? According to the deeds, it has to be spent in the parish. The most pressing need in Arkengarthdale is affordable housing for local families.
“There is a lot of interest in what we are doing, and I remain hopeful that we will find a solution that will provide a blueprint for other communities faced with the daunting challenge of providing affordable housing rather than being held up as yet another example of a community being undermined by the narrow interests of a few focused on exploiting rather than enhancing the best of what we have to offer.”
The Trust has the backing of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, in whose constituency the parish is located; the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority; and Richmondshire District Council, which pledged the £150,000 through the Government’s affordable-housing fund.