Landowners will not have to pay repairs for Wedmore church

This is The West Country: St Mary's Church in Wedmore. Photo: Jeff Searle. St Mary's Church in Wedmore. Photo: Jeff Searle.

A WEDMORE church has reassured landowners they will not have to foot the bill for church repairs under a law that dates back to Henry VIII.

Parochial church councils at 12 West Country churches have registered controversial liability rights under the Chancel Repairs Act 1932 - which some fear could bankrupt landowners.

But although St Mary's Church in Wedmore registered before the deadline made by law last October, vicar Richard Neill has reassured homeowners they will not be asked to pay up.

He told the Weekly News: “It mainly concerns the Hugh Sexey Trust. Hugh Sexey was chancellor to the crown, but left a lot of land to the trust when he died.

“The Hugh Sexey Trust owns a lot of land in Somerset, including in our parish. It will be the church, the church commissioners and the Trust which share responsibility for funding any repairs needed to the east end of the church.

“There is at least one property in our area on Trust land, bit this doesn't affect tenants, just the Trust as landowner. It's nothing local tenants need to worry about.”

According to the Land Registry, since May 2012, when parochial church councils were told they had to start registering chancel repair rights, it has received 151 notifications against 9,214 properties.

Nationally around 5,000 churches are believed to be able to demand money, but only one Herefordshire church, St Devereux, has sought a liability.

A spokesman for the Church of England said: “The Land Registry has advised that, although chancel repair liabilities are often described as 'relics from past times', owners of these rights or interests, including PCCs, often have a duty or responsibility to protect them.”

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