Church Statement re Glebe Development

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Possible Sale of Glebe Land (Stables and Horse Field) opposite St Bridget's Church on Rectory Road.

Briefing note from Revd John Bleazard, Rector of St Bridget's Church, West Kirby 1 st September 2019

The Diocese of Chester has been approached by a property developer interested in purchasing the above glebe land, reportedly in order to build a care home. Under charitable law, the diocese is obliged to consider this, and so issued a formal notice to St Bridget's Parochial Church Council (PCC) inviting our opinion on a possible sale. The PCC wrote back to the Diocese to say: “The PCC of West Kirby St Bridget objects strongly to the proposed sale of the Glebe Field off Rectory Rd, West Kirby. The glebe land and stables are an integral part of the Old Village Conservation Area with high quality features that are highlighted in the Wirral Council policy document CH16 from 2009, which especially notes: “the open aspect of remnant fields which originally surrounded the Village”; and “Priority will be given to retaining the open setting of land and woodland to the east and west of Echo Lane and of open land to the east of Church Walk”. The Conservation Area provides a beautiful and tranquil context for the setting of St Bridget's Church as a listed building. We value the protection the Conservation Area status gives the Church, graveyard and the surrounding land and buildings. St Bridget's is an Eco-Church and we have developed good and valuable partnerships with similar environmentally minded community groups such as West Kirby Transition Town, Friends of Ashton Park, Wirral Society. St Bridget's PCC has helped host a popular annual festival of the environment and the beauty of creation called Wirral Earthfest which sees dozens of community groups gathering on the Rectory Field for a day of celebration each September. St Bridget's School is developing environmental awareness campaigns that start with attention to their local area, and as a church we preach and promote our Christian responsibility to care for the environment, and aim to play our full part in local partnerships.” The Diocese considered our objections carefully, but has decided to carry on negotiating with the property developers, and in the meantime the land has been let for a short period. There are many further steps or hurdles before a sale might be finalised. We do not know about the likelihood of planning permission being granted – if a planning application were to be made by developers later on in this process, then planning objections could be made at that stage.

We at St Bridget's Church are now considering our next moves, and would be interested to hear from both individuals and groups who might come together to explore how best to protect this part of our local heritage. If you wish to ask questions at this stage about any aspect of the proposed sale, then please address your concerns to the Archdeacon of Chester: The Venerable Mike Gilbertson Archdeacon of Chester Church House 5500 Daresbury Park Daresbury Warrington WA4 4GE michael.gilbertson@chester.anglican.org Background information: Glebe land... ...is owned by the Church of England in order to provide income to pay parochial clergy. Once part of a parish priest’s ancient freehold, and passed on from rector to rector, glebe income provided the means to live; however many parishes, particularly urban ones, had no glebe and so clergy incomes varied widely and unfairly until the system was reformed in the twentieth century. As part of these reforms, responsibility for management of glebe land was transferred away from local church control and is now administered by the Chester Diocesan Board of Finance (a registered charity). The local church plays no part in managing glebe land. If any glebe land is sold, the proceeds are reinvested so as to provide continuing income to support clergy across the diocese. West Kirby Conservation Area... ...more information about the conservation area and the long-standing policies of Wirral Council to conserve this heritage gem can be found at https://www.wirral.gov.uk/planningand-building/built-conservation/conservation-areas/west-kirby-conservation-area