Friday, January 10, 2014

Old church law could make homes near Tamworth unsaleable

A LAW passed by King Henry VIII 500 years ago could force residents from a village near Tamworth to foot repair bills for their parish church – regardless of their religious belief or financial means.

Five homeowners in Edingale have recently discovered they are affected by 'chancel repair liability', which states that they are legally obliged to fund repair costs at Holy Trinity Church.

The Diocese of Lichfield has confirmed that all five households have had a letter hand-delivered to them explaining the process and emphasising that the church is working to find a solution to the issue.

Affected resident Helen Bailey, who lives in a barn she converted with her husband Chris in 1999 to help care for his elderly mother, has spent weeks tirelessly researching and campaigning to get the charges overturned.

Mrs Bailey, who has described the news as a "huge shock", told the Herald that the couple knew "nothing of chancel repair" when they purchased the land.

"I'm pleased that the local church now recognises that it needs to solve this problem," she said. "It's now aware of the enormous stress that it has caused, not just to me, and it realises that it would have been utterly unreasonable to leave things as they are."

The original chancel repair liabilities rule dates back to the 1530s and changed following Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. 

When people purchased land taken from monasteries, they became lay rectors and had a duty to help repair their local church.

Mrs Bailey gave up work in 2004 to care for her mother-in-law whom she nursed for about two years until her death.

Tragically, the 53-year-old's husband was then diagnosed with cancer six months later and died five years after that, followed in 2011 by her father and last year by her mother.

She added: "It has been a very difficult period for me and having lost so much of what was truly important in my life it has sometimes been hard to cope. I'm alone and trying to find a meaningful future. The home my husband and I built is my main asset and lies at the heart of my future plans. In recent years having become quite isolated as a carer, I've worked for a number of charities to try to regain contact with the outside world. Recently I have begun retraining to use what I have learned from some difficult experiences constructively to support others."
 
"As part of my plans I envisaged crystallising the value tied up in my property to fund my training and to allow me to work in a way that gave something back. By rendering my property potentially unsaleable this issue threatens another crippling loss; the loss of hope for a meaningful future. I am trying to stay calm but it is an additional and utterly unexpected blow which I am not sure I can face."
 
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Lichfield said: "This complex legislation is having a tough impact on churches and communities. Holy Trinity Edingale are writing again to everyone affected and researching the historical record as quickly as they can to find a just way forward."

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