HC Deb 08 March 2004 vol 418 c1240
23. Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD)

To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what action parishioners can take to prevent Church land in their parish from being sold by the diocesan authority for development. [158939]

Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell)

A diocesan board of finance is legally obliged to serve notice of the proposed sale of glebe land on the local incumbent or, in a vacancy of the benefice, on the priest in charge or churchwardens of the parish. They can make representations to the commissioners, who then decide the matter.

Bob Russell

Will the Church Commissioners have words with the Chelmsford diocese over the glebe field in the Mile End area of Colchester, where the diocese used the opportunity of the rector's departure to acquire part of the rectory grounds, add it to the glebe and put it on the market, against the wishes of local residents and the parish council? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that avarice shown by the Church is rather worse than avarice shown by property speculators?

Sir Stuart Bell

I anticipated the hon. Gentleman's question about the glebe field on the edge of Colchester, and we have already taken up the matter with the diocese. The legal obligations of the diocesan board of finance fall under the Endowments and Glebe Measure 1976. On the question of avarice, the Church does the best it can and is not to be compared with property speculators or developers, but I will be glad to take up the matter on the hon. Gentleman's behalf.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab)

May I raise the question of the development of land at Lingey house in Sacriston in my constituency by the Church Commissioners? What weight is given to local people's views? I ask that especially in light of the letter that I received from Vivien Brooks of the Church Commissioners, saying that she sees no reason for a meeting with local residents if it is for the purpose of discussing access and egress at the development site. I would expect such a hard-nosed approach from the most callous of property developers, but not from an organisation that is supposed to support the local community.

Sir Stuart Bell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that constituency matter. He and I have been in communication on it, and it concerns access and egress, as he said. We have given him some letters, and I have said that, as a Church Commissioner, I will be happy to discuss directly with him his constituents' concerns, and I look forward to our having such a meeting shortly.

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