Villagers relief after being told they will not be responsible for church payouts

First published in News Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Richmond)

VILLAGERS who were told they would be made financially responsible for their local church have had the weight lifted from their shoulders in time for Christmas.

Home-owners in Felixkirk, Boltby and Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe were told in October that under an ancient law they could be made to pay out thousands of pounds to maintain their local churches under the Chancel Repair Liability.

A law passed ten years ago made it necessary for local church councils to register those areas of land with Chancel Repair Liability by October 2013, or see the benefit to them lapse.

But investigations by the landowners, the national Church Commissioners and local church leaders have proved that local people in St Felix’s parish will not have to meet the costs themselves.

Documents show that the Church Commissioners sold the land years ago "free of encumbrances", meaning they have kept the responsibility themselves to pay for repairs.

The vicar of the Hillside and Osmotherley group of parishes, the Revd Ian Houghton, said: “Landowners in the parish were understandably unhappy about Chancel Repair Liability, and no-one in the church wanted that.

“The church council was doing its duty under law, but we do see that people can be anxious about this whole matter.”

He added: “The Commissioners have reassured us that Felixkirk Church Council acted correctly by finding out where relevant land was located in the parish, and registering it.

“We have written to the landowners concerned to guarantee that they will not ever be required to pay for repairs, nor will the next owners if they chose to sell their houses and land.

“I’m so glad that this matter has closed to the satisfaction of the landowners and the church.”

However resident Mike Shipley said while he was relieved to receive the letter from the Church Commissioners, he has also had a letter from the Land Registry to say the Parochial Church Council will still put a notice on his deeds about the property being under the liability.

He said: “I am quite happy that we do not have to pay and it will be a relief for other people in the village – but I am not happy that the PCC wants to put a notice on my deeds.”

The Land Registry said it would look into the Shipley’s case to find out whether the notice should be kept on the deeds.

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