Chancel Repair Liability - The Effects Locally

Sample Title Map

This all has relevance to Leighton Buzzard. The records of ascertainment and two copies of the tithe map are held at the Bedfordshire County Records Office. These were consulted to establish liability for the local churches based on land of type ‘c’ and ‘d’. The town parish was much bigger than at present when the dissolution of the monasteries took place. It included a chapel of ease in Stanbridge. There are lands in the ancient parish that share chancel repair liability for both All Saints, Leighton Buzzard and St John the Baptist, Stanbridge. (The circumstance where one set of land titles supports two chancels is rare but not unique: this is the only case in the diocese of St Albans.) It is understood that there is no CRL for Billington, Eggington, Hockliffe or Heath and Reach. Titles subject to CRL in Leighton Buzzard consist of what was once a massive field outside the town, an adjacent medium sized field and lots of smaller parcels of land scattered around the town and villages. These titles were responsible for some 7% of chancel repair costs. The PCC is responsible for 33% as a result of the process known as Queen Anne’s Bounty and the remaining 60% (all figures are rounded) is the responsibility of the Church Commissioners, the latter two categories based on land of type ‘a’ and ‘b’.

That low percentage of costs based on CRL was a blessing for the townspeople. It meant that the PCCs were able to convince the Charity Commission that the price of registering, where you often need to buy special very large scale local maps and pay Land Registry to do a search of the index map, was greater than the value to the charity of all those titles scattered around the town and villages. Only the large and medium sized field were registered, nearly 40 titles in the end. Until recently, these were all in the ownership of the Church Commissioners (not to be confused with the Charity Commission) and those that have been sold are, as far as the PCCs are aware, in the hands of businesses. It is believed that no private home owners are affected, and if further development puts properties on registered land, then the liability will be obvious and highlighted in the legal search. So in this area we have avoided the worst capricious effects of the state's centuries old land grab.

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