Catholic Diocese landed with £15m of property

Catholic Diocese landed with £15m of property


A Yorkshire Church has found itself with approximately £15 million worth of properties on its shoulders and the ongoing maintenance costs that are associated with them.

The portfolio of property which includes schools, community halls, and unsold churches has been offloaded onto Leeds Catholic Diocese Church.
The Church intended to sell the portfiolio immediately, but as a charitable organisation, had to ensure that they followed guidelines set forth by the Charity Commission.
Their guidelines state:"Trustees must always act in the best interests of their charity. How they demonstrate this is usually left to their decision, but when it comes to selling, leasing or transferring their charity’s land, the law sets out clear requirements to ensure that these important transactions are properly managed in the charity’s interests and that the trustees obtain the best price reasonable in the circumstances.
“In most cases the law enables trustees to proceed without approaching us, the Charity Commission, for approval to the transaction before they can proceed.”
Having followed the Commission's guidelines though, the organisation is still struggling to sell the properties.
John Grady, a spokesperson for the diocese told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “The last thing he (the seller) wants to do is leave buildings just hanging around because the people will say, ‘well nothing is happening’.
“It is a worry because it is a problem we can’t just shrug off, it is a constant topic of conversation between the trustees of the diocese.”
Most of this conversation centres around ethical rather than legal issues for the organisation, who are keen to ensure that the properties are put to good use.
Mr Grady added: “The last thing the Bishop wanted to do was audit and look at the state of property and then come forward with this plan. He wants there to be more churches.
“We have been pitched some ideas from the organisations for homeless people’s halfway houses or for those coming back from prison as well as drop in centres.
“I would love to turn some of these things into reality but they must raise money first. We’re selling but no one’s got the money to buy at the moment, we’ve been selling for around the last 10 years.”

For the time being then, while the Church waits for the money to fund its ideas, it must continue to pay maintenance costs on a number of buildings which are not being put to use.

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