News & Insights // Letter from the Diocesan Registry



Some of you will have noticed that there has been a flurry of activity concerning Chancel Repair Liability, a subject which has been dormant for some years. The current interest in this Liability arises out of a case – The Aston Cantlow Case – which ended up in the House of Lords and which is well worth reading if you think you may have Chancel Repair Liability in your parish.

The history is quite interesting. In medieval times every parish had its parish priest, the ‘rector’, and by virtue of his office he had a number of valuable proprietary rights. These rights included profits of glebe land and tithes, usually one-tenth of the produce of the land in the parish. The responsibility for the repair of the parish church was shared between the rector and the parishioners. The parishioners were responsible for repairing that part of the church where they sat, the western end, and the rector bore responsibility for repairing the chancel, the eastern end. The profits of glebe land and tithes provided for his maintenance and chancel repairs.

Subsequent Enclosure Acts have resulted in Chancel Repair Liability attaching to the ownership of land. The result is that properties in parishes where there is a medieval church may be liable for Chancel Repair costs. Whilst these charges mainly affect properties in rural areas, ancient settlements now form part of larger urban conurbations including Brighton, Manchester, Bedford and Lancaster. The liability does not have to be registered in order to be enforceable by the Church of England.

The Land Registration Act 2002 came into force on the 13th October 2003, which preserves the status of Chancel Repair Liability for the next 10 years. After 2013 there will be scope to free a buyer from this liability.

Although I am unaware of any such liability in the Diocese, it may well be worth investigating the position if you think that your parish might attract such liability.


Our Comment

Conveyancers can either feel worried about the fact that the Diocese of Blackburn have suggested to Parochial Church Councils that they investigate chancel repair liability or comforted that they clearly do not yet know there are more than 25 major parishes within their Diocese that have the right to charge chancel repair liability.