Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Church of England screws shepherd :: The Times

A couple who lost a seven-year legal battle against an ecclesiastical law that required them to pay the cost of repairs to an ancient parish church were ordered to meet the final demand for more than £200,000 yesterday.

The initial bill presented to Andrew and Gail Wallbank for restoration of St John the Baptist Church in Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire, was about £95,000.

After a series of legal challenges, including a hearing at the House of Lords in June 2003, the cost of the work being commissioned by the parish council of Aston Cantlow and Wilmcote with Billesley has more than doubled.
The Wallbanks own Glebe Farm, in Aston Cantlow. The site includes a field called Clanacre, which is classified as rectorial property, making them “lay rectors” of the parish.

The couple, who also have a sheep farm in Carno, Powys, became liable for restoration costs under the Chancel Repairs Act 1932, which is based on centuries-old law.

The Act has been widely criticised as unfair and the Law Society of England and Wales has called for it to be reformed.

After the judgment, Mrs Wallbank, 59, said: “The Church of England has made it inevitable that we will have to sell Clanacre Farm. The law is in a mess. The Church is not living by its teaching and is hiding behind an archaic law.

“We have stood against it for 17 years in all, during which we have been bullied and have even had the bailiffs round.”
Mr Wallbank, 66, said that they were caught in a vicious circle because no one would buy the farm with the church repair liability attached to it, and yet to get rid of the liability they would have to pay money for repair costs that might arise in the distant future.
Result? CoE will drawn the pockets of the Wallbanks (and others), and then be left with buildings it must maintain itself. Or not; as long as it's not their money they're spending it.

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