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Can a PC repair the boundary wall of a closed churchyard?

0 votes
At the time The PC took over maintenance of the churchyard, the PCC told the PC that 3 boundaries would become their responsibility, but left out the wall between the old rectory and the church. This wall now needs repair.  It has only recently been established that the wall remained the property of the church.
Does the PC have the power to spend their precept on the wall, or does the fact that the church did not specifically hand responsibility for that boundary over mean we cannot?
There are differing views within our council!

by (390 points)

1 Answer

0 votes
Who decided that the wall wasn't part of the churchyard?  Section 215 of the Local Government Act 1972 states that where a churchyard:

"has been closed by an Order in Council, the parochial church council shall maintain it by keeping it in decent order and its walls and fences in good repair."

If a parish council resolves to take on the maintenance of the churchyard in accordance with Section 215, it undertakes the same responsibility.

The Order of Council closing the churchyard may contain sufficient information to clarify the responsibility, but if it does indicate that the wall remains the property and responsibility of the PCC, the view of the NALC is that you may not contribute to the cost, by virtue of the Local Government Act 1894 Section 6 Para 1(a)(i), which has not been repealed or replaced in subsequent legislation.
by (45.9k points)
Thanks for the suggestion - will try to see the Order of Council. The reason some feel the wall remains the responsibility of the church is because in a letter to the PC clerk answering questions regarding maintenance responsibilities the PCC listed the 3 other boundaries as being owned and insured by the church. This particular wall was not mentioned.
Does this mean the church retained the responsibility (although I think at the time they thought it belonged to the rectory), and so we cannot use any funds to maintain the wall? Could we use general funds or section 137 funds or is that still not allowed?
I presume that the rectory no longer belongs to the church authorities. If this is the case, you should endeavour to establish whether or not the wall belongs to a third party. If the church or the rectory is listed, check the listings. Check the title deeds of the rectory. If either end of the wall stretches beyond the limit of the grounds of the rectory, it is likely to be part of the church property. If all else fails, knock on the door of the rectory and ask the owner which of their boundaries they maintain (although they might seize the opportunity to give you a wall!)

If the wall belongs to the church, it is now the council's responsibility to maintain it, unless it was listed as an exception at the time the Section 215 agreement was negotiated. If it was an exception, and it remains the responsibility of the PCC, in the view of the NALC legal bods, the council may not lawfully contribute to the costs, as a specific prohibition exists in the 1894 Act. Having said this, the same rules apply to grass cutting in  open churchyards, which hundreds of parish councils undertake from the precept, so a proportionate and necessary spend is unlikely to result in serious consequences.
Many thanks again - very informative and useful.

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