Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Land and Law

An Anglican priest of my acquaintance spoke to me recently about a curious incident. The diocese in which he works contacted not him, but his churchwarden, to state that at the latest by the end of next year (and preferably via the diocese within a month) the land on which the church and churchyard stand must be registered with the Land Registry as always having belonged to the church. This must be asserted before a solicitor.

There are some curious angles to this:

• Why is this necessary all of a sudden? Is it because some congregations are hoping to take their buildings with them when they join the Ordinariate?
• Does this mean that the Church of England is actually aware that its confident assertion that such alienation of property is not possible is actually not as watertight as it hoped? In fact, that congregations might successfully claim ownership of their own church?
• Why was the churchwarden approached without the knowledge of the incumbent? Is it because, as a known opponent of the ordination of women, he might be thought liable to join the Ordinariate?

One hears rumours of an E.U. law which says that if a congregation has been worshipping in a building for twenty years or more and maintaining it entirely at their own expense during this period it belongs to them. And presumably they could take it with them if they voted to join the Ordinariate or, for that matter (and no doubt preferably to some in Church House) the Unification Church or the Church of Scientology.

Makes you fink, dunnit?


Little Black Sambo said...

The churchwarden should simply refuse to cooperate. Who would the "owner" be, anyway, and who has the authority to decide who that is?

Fr Barry Tomlinson said...

This is nothing to do with the controversies in the church. It has to do with compulsory registration of land by the state in situations where it was voluntary before. In our diocese all churches have been asked to check maps as to the extent of the churchyards. Some would have done it via Incumbents, others via Churchwardens. There really is no hidden agenda.

davidforster said...

There was a report in one of the Sunday tabloids that unregistered land - including people's homes on occasion - was being claimed by unscrupulous third parties who have no entitlement to it. That might have been part of the concern of the diocese.

On the other hand, maybe the Church commissioners are one of the unscrupulous third parties?

Last Knight said...

It is unlikely that this has to do with compulsory registration, which is engaged only on the occurrence of certain events (s.4 Land Registration Act 2002). It is much more likely this this has to do with defeating potential claims to the land by incumbents or congregations by engaging the new adverse possession regime in Schedule 6 of the 2002 Act, which applies only to registered land.

tippettian said...

Surely it is more likely to be a step protect the churches right to chancel repair contributions which if not registered will lapse in about 18 months time.

Voluntary registration is a good idea to ward off adverse possession but adverse possession in any case has to be adverse, the 12 years do not run if you occupy by consent.

EU law does not apply to domestic real estate law and procedures