Thursday, 31 October 2013

Another update on Gorleston Chancel Repair Liability

PCC just can't stop registering

To be frank this seems like madness they could have chosen the reputational damage route or almost anything else but no they have registered the liability on another tranche of homes. I don't know how many but I heard there was another 1000 letters pending.

Financial  benefit? 

On a financial side I believe it is slightly bonkers since if the liability is apportioned the compounding value on a house is going to be probably between £5 and £10 and then the compounding money has to go into a special fund and so  I cannot believe that the legal costs in themselves would justify this action..
I am aware of many churches with apportioned chancel repair liability who came to the conclusion it would be silly based on expense to register the liability even forgetting the damage it does to the reputation of the church..


On balance I cannot see what positive news there is for Gorleston church for this action or positive benefit for the church in general. 


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Gorleston Probable Type of Chancel Repair Liabillity

I have seen no hard documents that tells me what the liability is in Gorleston but from what I have read and my own files suggests that it is very likely to be apportioned liability created by the 1936 tithe act. 

The holder of the liability to repair the chancel was the owner of the tithe rent charge. Under the terms of the 1936 tithe rent charge was extinguished but the liability was either merged into the land or the church was paid off  or the liability handed permanently over to a particular organisation . Every plot of land was treated differently according to its owner and the unique history of that parish and it was a monumental task carried out during the war

So here is part of my original post 

Apportioned liability under the 1936 tithe act

The vast majority of chancel repair liability (75 %?) is apportioned out with each field taking a tiny amount of liability using a calculation based on pre-decimal coinage. Taking a real but anonymised example from a parish that I believe is not to pursuing the liability.

this means that for every 1 old pence of a value an allotment has the owners are due to pay 1/281578.

An example is field 185

The value of this field is 9 shillings and 4 old pence which means  the owner of the field  is liable for 184/281578 of the value of the chancel or for every £1000 damage to the chancel  the owner is liable for £0.65

here is the plot 185

Allotment 185 now has  11 owners on it and the owners would be obliged to share the liability between them in a way they thought was equitable. For a PCC to register the 185 it would almost certainly cost a PCC a good sum of money  and to collect the money probably about £30. 

It is  likely, as the estate is fairly new, that all the owners have bought chancel repair insurance at a cost of at least £25 (could be as much £60) per house which is vastly in excess of any even foreseeable liability on the plot of land.
If it was considered that the compounding figure was around £40,000 (this is only a guesstimate and based on Aston Cantlow) for a chancel that the compounding figure to completely remove the liability from this plot would 184/281578 * £40,000 or £26 showing that in this place chancel repair liability insurance is fairly pointless.
This example of apportioned liability is fairly average since there are places where the percentage per plot is much smaller and a places where it is larger

It is also important to note that plot 191 does not have any liability due to who owned that plot in 1936.


This is not a definitive answer since there is no way of telling the type of liability until the documents are seen and so all I can say this type of liability is the most common.

Gorleston chancel repair liability the Magdalen College factor

According to the national archives one of the Lay Rectors was Magdalen College who appear to have 3/12 of the value of the chancel compounded (liability paid off)  ie there at the most in Gorleston 9/12 of the value of a chancel left to compound or to be paid off.

Calculating a compounding figure 

The actual means of calculating the figure to remove the liability is fairly mysterious  but we know that to remove the liability from  Aston Cantlow was £36,5000 and so, I guess any other chancel would be  in the same ball park which means about £40,000 although to accept any figure is up the PCC and the Diocesan authority. Since Gorleston chancel would seem to have had 3/12 paid off already  that  leaves about £30000 outstanding of the compounding figure. It is possible that other liabilities have also been extinguished under the 1936 tithe act and so it could be much less.

Gorleston chancel repair liability proposal

If anyone does object to the registration of Chancel repair liability on their property and gets a copy of the documentation supporting registration I would be more than happy to read it and interpret it.

Documents needed

To support registration a PCC needs a copy of the enclosure plan or tithe map and some of the documentation that goes with the maps . In a built up area where the land has changed they will need a modern map with the old map laid over it.  I would also be interested if the liability has been registered against the the council or highways agency as the entity that owns the roads.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Gorleston Chancel Repair Liability further thoughts

With the news of the liability in Gorleston still on going I thought would examine it in a little more detail.

The origins of the liability

Enclosure award liability

After a bit of googling I have come a bit of a blank on this although there was an enclosure for Gorleston  recorded in the parliamentary archives there is no reference to whether land was given in lieu of tithe which causes me to doubt that the liability is unapportioned ie it is several and personal.

Liability based on tithe rent charge 

The most widespread liability is apportioned liability under the 1936 tithe act and it is impossible for me to ascertain whether that is to found in  Gorleston since the actual document (the record of Ascertainments) is buried in this file although I have some files that would lead me to conclude that it is likely to exist.This is where each plot takes a fraction of the liability of the chancel in a fairly mysterious calculation individual for each parish.

Other liabilities 

There are several types of other possible liabilities, including merged land and tithe, and impropriated rectory glebe all of which are several and not apportioned out.

Possible reactions of a householder

If I was the householder I would I object when the UN1 came through the post so that I could discover on what basis the liability exists since I am aware of examples of incorrectly registered liability and this objection  should be done as a matter of course (send by return of post the UN4 back). I would also question if the the tithe or enclosure map can be successfully matched up with the modern  landscape and this may mean that a householder will end up in tribunal.

The Exemption Certificate

This sounds like a practical way out of a problem but it does not exist in law under the Ecclesiastical dilapidations measure 1923. If it is a liability based on the tithe rent charge it is likely that £50 is going to be excessive and if compounded under the Ecclesiastical dilapidations the liability on each plot may well actually be less. If the liability is based on any of the other forms of liability ,the question that would be in my mind is it actually going to be effective or is it going to increase other people's liability. A late night twitter conversation suggests that an exemption certificate might be possible as a type of informal compounding  although it could be a dogs breakfast for both the land owner and PCC.

 The Ecclesiastical dilapidations measure gives the power to compound or remove the liability not to the PCC but the central diocesan authority and I would want any document signed by them since that would give a greater sense of certainty that what has been done is correct and that the money is going to a fund to support the chancel.  If the liability was apportioned under the 1936 tithe act I think I would want to work out what the percentage of the liability is for my patch and then offer the Diocesan authority a sum (assuming £37,000 is a whole chancel) to formally compound the liability particularly if the calculation is under £50.


I am surprised that a PCC would think that registering the liability on 900 houses  is considered to be reasonable and equally surprised they did not write to the Charity commission to justify non-registration on the grounds of reputational damage and ask for section 110 advice. I am puzzled that this exemption certificate is being used when there is, all be it complicated, a way of totally removing the liability  in existence fairly and fully.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Gorleston Chancel Repair Liability update

The story is found here. it appears that the Vicar has been quoted as saying there is such a thing as an exemption certificate but as far as I can ascertain this does not exist under law. If the liability is derived from an enclosure award as would seem to be the case an exemption  certificate may prevent the parish from asking for money from one lay rector but other lay rectors who did not take out the certificate would be given a heavier bill or still have the right to claim from those who took out the certificate.

The only legal way to rid a plot of land from the liability is under the 1923 Ecclesiastical Dilapidations Measure with a certificate issued by the Diocesan authority. Any other means of doing it may be unsuccessful or put the PCC into legal hot water for failing to protect the other lay rectors interests.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Gorleston Chancel Repair Liability (Norfolk)

I have recently come across this story here it is a little puzzling or even  significantly incorrect because it talks about a 'certificate of exception' and that concept does not exist in any Chancel Repair law I have come across. The only way to remove the liability is to compound it under the Ecclesiastical Dilapidations Measure 1923 and I suspect the only way to do this correctly would be if all the householders did it together which could work out at about £50 per householder and this process is carried out by the Diocese by consulation with the PCC with any money going into a special fund.

Beware the Certificate of Exemption

If I was a householder I would not touch a certificate of exemption with a barge pole. Indeed if such a thing existed, it might increase the liability of the other householders but more likely it is not worth the paper it is written on and I would insist on a proper compounding process.

Basis of the liability 

 The liability would appear to be personal and several under an enclosure act of  1809 and this covered the three parishes of Corton Hopton and Gorleston and there should be liable land in at least one of the other parishes.


On the 19th October I got my chancel acts confused Greg

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Moment of fame has past...

The One Show and Chancel Repair Liability

My opinion is that it was  on balance it was a fair representation of the facts and as they used me as one of their resources I am bound to say that. Yes they may have  focused on the human side but I consider that was reasonable because chancel repair liability might be obscure and odd but it can have some concerning side effects

Any way after my exciting if brief appearance  on the BBC 'One Show' about chancel repair liability and the semi deadline for registration having past I, hopefully, can look forward to fewer phone calls e-mails but someone how I feel I might be disappointed Yet, anyway I have always planned to end this blog sometime between now and Christmas and that still remains my plan.
In case your wondering I really don't do flower arranging and barely notice they exist hence I am currently suffering a lot of teasing..

Friday, 11 October 2013

Concerns about the registering Chancel Repair Liability

With today's deadline a  very interesting article from the church times has come out by Gavin Drake found  here providing facts and figures about the number of churches registering saying about 89 churches are going to register. I would have guessed about 100 churches but with most of the liability being held by large land owners who probably will not go the press. I suspect at the end of the day it will be slightly more than 100 churches.

Two concerns

My first concern and I am aware of least one parish that is doing is that they are registering land that no longer bears the liability and since few people understand the law a lot of upset and grief may come to pass before the truth comes out.
My second concern is that parishes are not taking seriously the option of going the way of reputational damage. I can see they might do this because they do not have  the time to complete the research and before  today's deadline and they have registered as a holding measure. They maybe  unaware that the reputational damage route is an argument they could use to avoid registration followed up with the possibility of writing to the charity commissioners to get vindication of this PCC decision .

Rights and wrongs of registration

In the part of the One Show filming which got edited out I stated that the whole thing was a little bit bonkers and it is and huge regret to me that parliament ducked the sorting of chancel repair liability out fully. The mess that has been created by parliament's inaction has to be resolved by the local church and so each church council has to make it's own decision of what is reasonable to do. Many church  councils are ill equipped to deal with this issue and the support from dioceses has been a bit patchy. Sadly I know that some churches will register when really shouldn't and some fail to register when maybe they should have and some have refused to investigate and decided probably accidentally  to put all PCC members in legal jeopardy.