Church council accused of taking ‘easy option’ over wall repair bill
- Credit: Archant
A church council has been accused of taking the 'easy option' after leaving Thorpe St Andrew taxpayers with a repair bill of up to £100,000.
In March this year, a large retaining wall within the churchyard of Thorpe St Andrew Parish Church collapsed overnight.
Despite the churchyard off Yarmouth Road being owned by the Diocese of Norwich, the parochial church council (PCC) has used legislation to pass the repair costs to Thorpe St Andrew Town Council.
That means taxpayers - rather than the church - could have to pay for the wall to be fixed.
At a town council meeting on Monday, members asked Thorpe St Andrew rector Rev James Stewart why the PCC served the Section 215 notice before finding out if the collapse was covered by insurance.
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Councillor Trudy Mancini-Boyle said: 'I feel like serving notice has just been the easy option for the PCC when there are so many other things that need to be considered first.'
Town clerk Thomas Foreman said repair estimates put the price between £25,000, for a temporary fix, and £100,000 for a long-term solution.
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He added: 'My preferred option from the outset would have been, instead of a 215 notice coming forward which gives us three months, a letter from the PCC explaining the financial predicament they find themselves in.'
Mr Stewart said he had attempted to chase the insurance company for its 'causation' report, which would show if the repair costs were covered.
But he said it had not yet been made available to him.
He told councillors the church had been aware of a crack in the retaining wall for about two or three years before the collapse. He claimed advice from surveyors was to 'keep an eye on it'.
Mr Stewart said the diocese had advised to serve a 215 notice to the council in regard to the church wall.
However, he added: 'I am happy to go away and ask whether the notice could be withdrawn.'
Following the wall's collapse, the church started an emergency wall fund, which had so far brought in £8,000.
Councillors had initially been recommended to pass any maintenance costs to Broadland District Council.
But instead they unanimously voted to defer the decision and request the following:
• Details of the surveyor report given to the church and any advice given
• Clarification on the insurance and whether it will pay out for the collapse
• Seek advice from Broadland and review any support they could give to a judicial review
• Invite the church council to consider rescinding its section 215 notice.