After fighting their case all the way to the House of Lords and losing, Powys couple Andrew and Gail Wallbank have been forced to sell their farm in order to pay for repairs to the chancel of their local church and their legal costs in fighting their case.
When the couple first acquired the property, they were only vaguely aware that it was ‘rectorial property’, which meant that it came with a legal obligation, under the Chancel Repairs Act 1932, to maintain the local church at Aston Cantlow. They thought this a mere technicality until they were presented with a bill for more than £200,000 for repairs to the 13th century church. They undertook a series of legal battles contesting the Church’s demands.
Having lost their case, the farm was sold at auction for £850,000, but only after a payment of £37,000 had been made to the Church authorities in order to remove the legal obligation to maintain the church from future owners. Unless that had been done, the property was virtually unsaleable. Mr Wallbank had inherited the farm from his father and had been unaware of the extent of the obligation attaching to the property until the demand was made by the local Diocese.