Parish council and church locked in dispute over cost of park lease

St Paul's Church, Farington Moss
St Paul's Church, Farington Moss

A legal wrangle is looming between a church and a parish council over a park.

Farington Parish Council has been asked to cough up a huge increase for the 25-year lease of St Paul’s Park.

St Paul’s Church, Farington Moss, is demanding an ‘unfair’ £750 a year - a 500 per cent increase on the parish council’s £125 a year previous rent of the park.

Now the parish council is seeing legal advice from its solicitor. The parish council - given the amount of money it had spent and continued to spend on the upkeep of the park - says it is extremely disappointed with the church.

The church said the proposed new charge had been decided upon following advice from the surveyor and the parochial church council.

Parish council representatives are due to meet the parochial church council and Father Matthew, of St Paul’s to discuss the matter.

One of them, councillor Mike Otter said: “We pay what used to be termed a peppercorn rent. It’s just to give us control of the land we took a lease out on to provide play equipment for Farington West.

“We’re also responsible for the maintenance of the park, such as grass cutting, bins, hedge cutting.

“The lease was taken out for 15 years in 2001. It expired in August 2016 so we contacted the parochial church council in 2011 initially to extend the lease, but as time moved on the lease expired.

“We approached the parochial church council and unfortunately the incumbent vicar had retired, then another one was appointed.”

He added: “We think the increase is unfair but we’re trying to arrange negotiations with the vicar and PCC to come to an amicable sum.

“Our view is to replace some of the play equipment, but we can’t without a lease in place for a minimum of 20 or 25 years.”

Father Matthew McMurray of St Paul’s Church, said talks were continuing. He said: “I spoke to the clerk to the parish council last week to find a way forward.

“The price had to go up, it’s just finding a way to agree on what it is. As far as I’m concerned were not at loggerheads with the parish council.”

A further meeting is due to take place between the parochial church council and Father Matthew McMurray, the chairman of the parish council, councillor Karen Walton, parish councillor Mike Otter and the parish council clerk.