THE Church of England has defended its decision to hand a historic Leeds church over to new owners despite their chequered financial history.
St John’s Church in Roundhay, which has links to the royal family, has fallen into disrepair since being sold in 2010 for a nominal £1 to the Pentecostal City Mission (PCM), a small-London based evangelical church.
The PCM has failed to file accounts with the Charity Commission for any year beyond that ending in March 2009 - and that year’s accounts were only eventually filed more than two years after their due date.
St John’s churchyard includes the graves of a number of members of the influential Lupton family who are directly related to the Duchess of Cambridge.
But it is in need of remedial work estimated to cost more than £100,000 and Church Commissioners included a covenant when transferring ownership requiring the PCM to carry out the work.
However, the covenant only required the PCM to undertake the task by 2015. The graveyard has now become wildly overgrown and inaccessible.
In addition, the church itself is no longer being used as a place of worship by the PCM and is leaking water through holes in the roof following thefts of lead.
A Church Commissioners spokesman said: “Continued Christian worship was by far the most suitable use for a former Anglican church. We were satisfied the use was viable.
“They had provided evidence of accounts and also provided a list of proposals planned for the church and churchyard. Given the information provided, the Church Commissioners were satisfied this was a suitable and viable use.”
Church Commissioners acknowledge they have no power to force work to be carried out on the churchyard until 2015 when legal action would become an option.
In the meantime, repairs to the church itself can be enforced by Leeds City Council which has legal powers through legislation designed to protect listed buildings.
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: “We have noted the charity’s failure to file its annual documents and this is reflected in the red box against its entry on the online Register, which serves to inform the public and potential donors.” The PCM has not responded to repeated requests to comment.