Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by St Mary Redcliffe (CEM 33)

  My attention was drawn to the fact that the Environment Sub-committee of the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs is undertaking an inquiry into cemeteries. I am writing on behalf of the incumbent of St Mary Redcliffe Church, the Revd Tony Whatmough, and the Secretary of our PCC, Miss Pauline Gillard but we are not sure whether this enquiry covers Local Authority cemeteries or whether it includes churchyards, open or closed, owned by the Church of England which happen to be called cemeteries.

  The St Mary Redcliffe cemetery in Bath Road, Bristol was closed for burials by Order of the Privy Council on 8 February 2000. The maintenance of the cemetery has now been taken over by the Bristol City Council but there is a chapel in the cemetery which remains the responsibility of the Church. The chapel is not in good repair and has recently been vandalised; the gravestones too are damaged. Bristol City Council have made enquiries whether they could repair the chapel and use it as an office. If that was to proceed, a faculty would need to be obtained. Terms of the use of the chapel would then be governed by a licence pursuant to the faculty. The cost of repair and restoration of the chapel, the gravestones and the boundary walls are going to be substantial and consideration must be given to the source of funding for such work.

  Under Section 215 of the Local Government Act 1972, the maintenance and repair of the churchyard is taken over by the local authority but the functions and liabilities remain under the control of the incumbent with the concurrence of the PCC. The legislation on redundant churchyards does appear to be rather confused. Clarification as to who is responsible for the funding of repairs and for insurance, particularly in view of the possibility of personal injury arising from the damaged condition of these items is not readily obtained.

  After consultation with the incumbent, the PCC Secretary, the Diocesan Registrar and the Local Authority, it was considered appropriate to draw your attention to this confused area of legal responsibility.

Roger Feneley

Church Warden

December 2000

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