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Legal fees delay sale of ruins

PUBLISHED: 18:43 24 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:20 03 July 2010

Dominic Bareham

CONCERNS over the payment of legal fees have held up plans to buy the 800-year-old ruins of an abandoned village church for just £1.

The Grade 2 ruins of St Margaret's Church in Hopton on Sea have been offered for sale by the Church of England, however they would need £300,000 spending on them to stabilise the buildings.

CONCERNS over the payment of legal fees have held up plans to buy the 800-year-old ruins of an abandoned village church for just £1.

The Grade 2 ruins of St Margaret's Church in Hopton on Sea have been offered for sale by the Church of England, however they would need £300,000 spending on them to stabilise the buildings.

They were originally offered to Great Yarmouth Borough Council's conservation section but it decided it could not afford to take on the deal. The maintenance liability after the stabilising would be up to £15,000 a year.

Now former borough councillor Brian Howard said the parish council may have to vote on whether to pay nominal legal fees over the sale of the ruins after the borough authority decided pass the purchase over to them.

The original plan had been for the borough council to buy the ruins off the church for £1 and then pass the land on to the parish council. The parish council have now agreed to take on responsibility for the purchase, with the borough dealing with the legal side.

Mr Howard believed the parish would therefore have to pay for the legal work undertaken by the borough.

“The legal department at the council told Darren Barker (the borough's conservation officer) they would act for us but not deal with the church council. Although they would do all the legal work for us, we would not have to find a solicitor so the council would act as the legal body for which they would charge a nominal fee,” he said.

Mr Barker confirmed the parish was initially going to meet part of the legal fee, with the borough funding the rest, but said on Wednesday the borough would be able to meet all the legal costs through its historic buildings budget, which will include a land registration fee of £40 and legal costs possibly running into hundreds of pounds.

The Church of England needs to sell St Margaret's because it is no longer in use and cannot be developed because of its Grade 2 listed building status.

Mr Howard said the parish planned to install some temporary buildings on the land which could be leased out to local businesses such as internet cafes to raise money to pay for the council's long term ambition to build a community centre and arts and crafts workshops.

He said the £300,000 stabilising cost could be met with grants from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

At an earlier parish council meeting, councillors came up with a host of ideas for the ruins' future which played a large part in Hopton's history.

Hopton In Bloom has a vested interest in the land as well as the buildings and assurances have been given that it was unlikely permission would ever be given for homes on the site.

Parish councillors are expected to rubber-stamp the agreement with the borough authority.

ends

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