Chancel Repair Liability - The Effects Locally
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 had been sold were, as far as the PCCs were aware, in the hands of businesses. On first registration it was believed that no private home owners were affected. So in this area we avoided the worst capricious effects of the state's centuries old land grab.
Since then, further development has put properties on registered land. The liability was obvious and highlighted in the legal search. We understand that the developers provided a twenty-five year CRL insurance, but this ceased to be of use to people re-mortgaging for another twenty-five years or trying to sell to people needing a twenty-five year mortgage. In any case, we started negotiations with the developers as soon as we saw what was happening, but this took many years to conclude. The good news is that a resolution has been reached, and details of how to proceed to remove CRL in the area of the Roman Gate development are on the parent page, linked below.
Should anyone be making plans for further residential developments and see CRL on the title, we urge them to get in touch with us before subdividing the area into individual titles. As the registered area is large and supports less than ten percent of chancel repair costs, the fair value (as the Charity Commission would view it) for us to raise a form UN2 to remove the charge from the title is far less than the losses likely through sales difficulties and CRL insurance or indemnity costs: typically from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds, depending on the area covered.