HC Deb 15 May 1995 vol 260 cc13-4
28. Mr. Fisher

To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners what consideration the Church Commissioners give to local opinion when considering offers of purchase and change of use for churches. [22495]

Mr. Alison

The commissioners' policy is governed by the Pastoral Measure 1983. When a Church of England church is closed for worship, the Measure lays emphasis on the diocese seeking a suitable use and that is what is most commonly achieved. Each case is decided by the commissioners on its merits, taking into account the advice of their statutory advisers—the Advisory Board for Redundant Churches—the nature of the building, the options available and the views of the diocese. Dioceses are sensitive to local opinion in seeking uses. Formal objections made to the commissioners about proposed uses are most carefully considered.

Mr. Fisher

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that my constituents in Stoke-on-Trent can see no evidence that the commissioners are seriously taking into account their views in relation to St John's Hanley, which the diocese wishes to sell to a company wishing to establish a climbing centre in a handsome church in the middle of the city? Whose interests are being served there? Will the right hon. Gentleman try to ensure that the local views which have been expressed coherently and sensibly with well thought out alternative ideas are taken into account?

Mr. Alison

The hon. Gentleman knows that the climbing centre proposal was a good deal further ahead than the Friends of St John's community centre proposal. However, the climbing centre proposal has not gone ahead and it is still fully open to the Friends of St John's community centre project to be considered fairly alongside it. No final decision has yet been taken, and the hon. Gentleman's own preference may in the event win the day.