Spilsby Town Council has agreed to issue a statement regarding the cost of reconstructing the wall at St James Church in the town.
At the full Council meeting on 24 June, Councillors agreed that it is necessary to communicate with residents about the reconstruction of the wall at St James Church, due to the large level of expenditure involved.
The Council is responsible for the reconstruction of the wall because the churchyard is ‘closed’. When a churchyard becomes ‘closed’, the responsibility for the maintenance of churchyards transfers to local authorities, in this case, Spilsby Town Council.
However, because the wall belongs to the church, the process for commencing reconstruction work is not as straightforward as simply hiring a local contractor. An application must be approved by the church diocese before work can commence and the construction design also must be approved as the process is not a small task.
Due to the nature of the work specialist surveyors, structural designers and Health and Safety managers must be appointed, and tenders invited from approved contractors. Because the wall collapsed onto the grounds of two residential properties, work to move sheds belonging to these properties and provision of a safe working area had to be completed.
The Council has confirmed the most of the provisional processes are now in place. Planning permission has been granted for the reconstruction.
So far the Council has spent £19,771 on works carried out so far, with a further £5,371 committed. The Council’s chosen quotation through the tendering process has an overall estimated cost of £123,631.50.
Over the last few years, the Town Council has gradually built up reserves through the Precept to cover the costs of reconstruction. The Council has had to raise the Precept to meet the cost of the work, which the Town Council stated was a decision it did not take lightly. The Council stated that it is likely that a Public Works loan will be needed in the short term to avert a further steep increase in the Precept to pay for the reconstruction.
The church wall was not covered by insurance prior to the collapse of the wall. An internal investigation is being carried out to see why this was the case and will be reported back to Council, with local residents kept informed of the findings. The wall is now insured against future damage.