Friday, 13 September 2013

Radio 4 Sunday and Chancel Repair Liability

Recently on the 15th September there was a programme on Radio 4 Sunday which featured Chancel Repair Liability and in many ways it was great since it featured the problems PCC's are dealing with and highlighted many issues.

Key Mistakes

There was though one important mistake it repeated several times and that was that former church land carries the liability and this is absolutely not true in virtually all cases of church owned land the liability was either removed in 1923 or 1976. The only exception to this is if the land was formerly owned by a bishop or Dean or other senior clerical office (appropriator)  this liability may remain but often, it is owned, ultimately by the Church Commissioners. Hence land called or houses with the phrase glebe or rectory or vicarage as part of the name are places that are the least likely to have the  liability.
 The land that bears the liability is land that once was owned by Lay Rectors (or impropriators) not land owned by the Clerical Rectors. It was unfortunate that a good programme should be marred with a basic misunderstanding of the law.
It is also forgot to include the issue of their being two different forms of liability, that of apportioned liability, which is by far the largest form of liability and that of non-apportioned leaving, I believe, most people thinking that any land has complete liability for the chancel when this is, simply, not true.

The Example of Preston in Rutland

The reporter visited Rutland and the PCC  had been concerned about the liability and assumed their parish church  had it. Apparently they wrote to the charity commissioners saying they did not want to pursue it due to pastoral damage they may cause.
The problem with the story was that the parish of Preston in Rutland never had the liability in the first place.

A small extract taken from House of Commons paper 44

In 1773 the land that may have taken the liability was given to a Clerical Rector and any liability tied to former land owned by a Clerical Rector has long since been extinguished. So whether the Charity Commission released the parish from not doing a research on a non-existence liability remains a little mystery. In my opinion to not research, if indeed that was what happened, was a mistake for the parish of Preston may well have discovered that some very wealthy and ancient body were responsible.

As can be seen from the above extract the opposite is true of Newbold in Warwick where the land was given to a lay person and in that parish there may well be land that has the liability.


The programme was great in highlighting the issues but from my perspective a real understanding of the complexity of chancel repair liability was not expressed and their is a danger of people getting the wrong impression  of where the liability could be found and what it is like.

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