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Couple’s shock at church repair bill
A BROADWAY couple feel “knocked for six” after receiving a letter telling them they could be forced to pay for repairs to a village church.
The news was a shock for pensioners Bill and Cathy Whamond, who may be told to finance work on the 12th century St Eadburgha’s Church in Snowshill Road under an archaic law called Chancel Repair Liability, which they knew nothing about.
The couple realised they were one of a number of homes that could be made responsible for church repairs when they received a letter two weeks ago.
Mr Whamond, aged 75, of Collin Court, said after recently beating cancer this was the last thing they needed. “Once we have this black mark we won’t be able to sell,” said the former sales manager.
“My home is supposed to be my castle, it’s not now.”
The couple received the letter from the Parochial Church Council, the trustees for St Eadburgha’s, and were given until midday on Wednesday, July 25, to provide a legal objection.
So far 27 properties have received letters but some 30 to 40 pieces of land in the village may be affected.
“We can’t find any legal objection against this archaic law,” said Mrs Whamond, aged 72, who will become a lay rector under the law. “It has knocked me for six.”
Although they are responsible for repairs it is not yet known what the cost of work will be. A five-year review in 2010 said the building had no current requirement for repairs.
St Eadburgha’s Church says it will not fight to enforce the law and is sorry for any distress caused.
Rev Michelle Massey, Vicar of Broadway, said: “The PCC has a legal obligation to investigate Chancel Repair Liability. We are currently contacting the Charity Commission to persuade them to grant an exemption order. We have to follow the process until it has been completed.”
Susan Morrissy, a partner at Worcester-based mfg solicitors, explained: “Chancel Repair Liability is not a new phenomenon.
The advice being given by the Church Commissioners to the Parochial Parish Council appears to be driven by the fact that the liability will lose its “overriding status” at midnight on October 12, 2013 under the Land Registration Act 2002.
“We are continuing with our advice that property owners obtain insurance against this potential liability to avoid issues arising on a sale or remortgage.”
A well-known case of this nature saw Andrew and Gail Wallbank from Aston Cantlow, near Stratford, sent a bill for about £180,000. They fought the case but were forced to sell their farm to fund the repair and legal costs.