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.

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