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Hundreds of Worcester homes to escape tax for church repairs
Buy this photo » PLANS: Church warden Rachel Cramp and parochial church council vice-chairman Geoff Sansome with a map of homes whose owners could have been liable to pay for repairs. Pictures by Paul Jackson. (4113425501)
HUNDREDS of people living in parts of Northwick and Warndon in Worcester could have been forced to pay for repairs to Claines Church under an ancient law.
About 1,000 homes were identified as being liable for the historical tax but Claines Parochial Church Council has decided not to exercise its right to claim the money.
However, there may well be many more homeowners across Worcestershire liable to similar taxes as other churches are now investigating whether they can claim.
So many have been looking into the issue, the archive and archaeology service at the Hive in Worcester has had to offer its staff specific training connected to the parish records.
The money is owed under chancel repair liability, which dates back to when rectors received tithes from their parish to pay for repairs to the chancel, the altar end of the church.
The tax was attached to land and, when sold, the land retained this liability.
In the parish of Claines, 1,007 homes across 37 land parcels – mostly connected with Northwick Manor, the historical home of the Bishop of Worcester – are liable for nine per cent of any chancel repair costs.
A few affected homes are in Warndon, parts of which were once in the parish of Claines.
The issue has come to a head because all PCCs, under the power of the Land Registration Act 2002, must identify affected land and register their interest by Saturday.
After that date, new owners of land will only be bound by CRL if it is entered on the Land Registry’s Title Register database.
The Church Commissioners have told PCCs they must exercise their rights or be able to make a strong case for why they have not.
Members of the PCC in Claines held an extraordinary general meeting this summer where they agreed the parish would not register its interest on the properties.
Geoff Sansome, PCC vice-chairman, said people felt that to do so would adversely affect the church’s reputation. He said: “The negative impact on the reputation of the church if we were seen to be pursuing 1,000 people would be colossal.”
Mr Sansome spent two years researching Claines’ history. He said: “The records office at the Hive has been alive with people working on this over the summer. It’s been fascinating.
“As a parish, Claines then stretched down to Lowesmoor and up to Tunnel Hill and across Warndon. It was a huge parish, one of the biggest in Worcester.”
Anyone interested in seeing if their home in Claines is affected can access a map via clainesfriends.org.uk.