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AIBU to think the Church DGAF? (LONG - stressed!)

(24 Posts)
RuddyTrees Mon 25-Jan-16 10:32:57

Name changed for ID purposes but long time poster, at wits end...
My house is adjacent to a church & churchyard. When I bought it I could see the thatch was going to need replacing within a few years and the trees belonging to said churchyard would need attention. I factored the cost of the ageing thatch into my offer.

Fast forward a few years... Eff all has ever been done to the trees (despite my mentioning it) and a number of trees in the churchyard are now so overgrown that I have very little light to all but 2 windows, there are a number of branches laying on or brushing the thatch and falling leaves have been so rife that "clusters" have built up, leaving ridges where rainwater / ice hasn't been able to run off the roof, so has caused an acceleration in the thatch rotting & deteriorating. The trees now act as a handy 'walkway' for squirrels, mice and rats to wander from tree to roof to gnaw on the straw (and the lead flashing!)

I have been in contact with the church and planning permission was granted to pollard / lop the trees and one was being felled... Or so the planning stated. Now, nearly 7 months after I originally made this official (and countless, countless emails, man-hours, telephone calls and meetings) the church have more or less admitted that the contractor they'd chosen (the cheapest) may not / doesn't have the necessary H&S certs. They (the church) have no said they need to have another meeting. They just fob me off with "We'll get round to it" and push back dates, every time.

I need to get this moving - the trees need to be done before birds start to nest or I'll have to wait another year. Any ideas of who to speak to (this has gone through the DAC, PCC & the Bishop of the Diocese has been out - twice!) It's agreed that the work needs to happen but with spring just around the corner I'm so worried. It's keeping me awake at night and I don't know where to turn - hence MN AIBU help needed! Any ideas??
Thanks for reading flowers

CocktailQueen Mon 25-Jan-16 10:36:52

Oh, that's terrible.

I'd be tempted to cut back the trees to your boundary line (which is legal) and present the church with the bill, then take legal advice re where you stand for getting the job done properly.

The church should need to get 3 quotes then choose from those, but presumably they had those quotes done way back 7 months ago, so they could choose another contractor? The church should have a buildings committee that meets regularly and can sign cheques - no idea why the delay is so long. Could you contact the person from the council who is in charge of the building/grounds and meet him?

AndNowItsSeven Mon 25-Jan-16 10:38:41

The church is probably struggling to afford it I can't imagine over growing trees is their top priority.

BarbarianMum Mon 25-Jan-16 10:42:59

You are legally entitled to cut vegetation back to your boundary line but you would need to cover this cost not the church. I doubt that they are obliged to carry out this work, although I agree it would be nice if they did.

Hereward1332 Mon 25-Jan-16 10:50:50

Sorry but as other posters have said if the branches are overhanging your property it's your responsibility to cut them back. The church will probably grant you access if needed, but you need to arrange this, not them.

Seeline Mon 25-Jan-16 10:53:10

If the trees are protected (which they would appear to be if the Church has gone through the planning process) I would be extremely wary about cutting them back. Unauthorised works to protected trees can result in huge fines.
I'm not sure which takes priority - common law vs planning law

BarbarianMum Mon 25-Jan-16 10:59:06

If the trees are protected - TPO or the like - it is important to get permission for the works but OP has implied that that has already been obtained.

Seeline Mon 25-Jan-16 11:04:42

Barbarian If permission has been obtained then the works have to be carried out as specified in the permission - not just lopping the ends of overhanging branches, as other posters have suggested.

PeterGriffinsPenisBeaker Mon 25-Jan-16 11:07:00

I think you're being a bit ridiculous. You understood the issues before you purchased the house. The Church is run by volunteers and therefore you will feature rather far down their priority list. I would bet money the tree gas a TPO on it given that it's branches rest on your roof (in relation to height = good indicator of tree maturity). Why not try to be proactive, get some quotes yourself and speak to the vicar rather than venting on here. Honestly!

howabout Mon 25-Jan-16 11:14:06

YANBU and agree with Seeline that you cannot take matters into your own hands. We have a similar issue going on with our neighbour. If you only trim the trees on your side then you would potentially destabilise or kill them.

Is your property listed? If so try council listed buildings contact.

RuddyTrees Mon 25-Jan-16 11:27:02

Thanks all. As some pp's have stated, the trees are protected by TPOs, hence why we've gone through the planning process. The trees are in excess of 70ft and have to be properly pollarded and one felled (as it's also damaging an ancient wall, belonging to the church.

I've spoken to the Vicar (lovely chap) and it all got sent higher (so to speak), eventually ending up with the Bishop of the entire area coming out to see the trees - twice(not sure why). I'm honestly not venting about teh volunteers who help the church, I'm just at my wits end that the work has been agreed, it has to go ahead but the parish council had given the contract to the cheapest quote - someone without the necessary qualifications & certification. My 'beef' is that now that I've gone back to say "Please, please hurry up" they (Vicar, churchwardens, diocese etc) are now calling yet MORE meetings to determine next steps! I KNOW I am not a priority but I don't know how to get things moving before spring.
Sorry for another lengthy post - I'm venting on here because I am at a loss. Do I seek legal advice? The work has been agreed, planning permission granted etc but time is of the essence.
Thanks again for taking time to reply (and read my waffle!)

RuddyTrees Mon 25-Jan-16 11:28:46

howabout - yes, Grade II listed. Thanks - I'll call them now.

Fidelia Mon 25-Jan-16 11:31:34

Also very much doubt that the bishop has been to look at it hmm Much more likely to have been the archdeacon.

RuddyTrees Mon 25-Jan-16 11:55:11

No really, fidelia - the Bishop of the entire area came out, I had a double-take (I'd seen him in a play and he's been on the tellybox and the radio). It's bonkers.

I feel like they're trying to get me to pipe down and purposely dragging their heels so that I leave it. I know that churches are seen to have no money (but a quick Google shows that this diocese owns £60 million of property) but this issue is slowly destroying my home (I can't get it rethatched until the trees are sorted).

LaurieFairyCake Mon 25-Jan-16 12:01:31

Do you have the option of cutting anything touching your roof just so you can re thatch?

RuddyTrees Mon 25-Jan-16 12:07:58

Sadly not Laurie - any work on the trees has to be per the planning permission, as they are covered by a TPO. Just hacking off the branches that are touching the roof isn't enough, either as the roof needs to dry out before rethatching. The trees drop leaves, sap and moisture so they need pollarding / lopping a good 20ft! I will confess to sawing one off - as it was scraping and squeaking against my bedroom window in even the slightest breeze. I covered the end in some brown shoe polish! Dear me, I'm clearly going round the twist.
Thanks all for replying - even those telling me to get a grip - I appreciate your time flowers

RuddyTrees Mon 25-Jan-16 12:08:25

^one branch

ExploraDora Mon 25-Jan-16 12:08:37

I wonder whether your insurance company would step in and pressure the diocese somewhat? They might get moving quicker with a letter from your insurance company's solicitors threatening them with liability for roof damage, damp etc.

redexpat Mon 25-Jan-16 12:18:38

Surely the only issue to be solved is finding a new contractor? I think you need to give them a date, but i dont know if you could threaten legal action to enforce it. Would the CAB be able to help with this?

SunsofAlanKey Mon 25-Jan-16 12:27:51

The Church are painfully slow to react to anything like that, they have so much red-tape and very little in the church's finances to cover these things. I grew up in a vicarage, our kitchen needed replacing when we moved in I was 6, they finally replaced our kitchen when I was 18 so only 13 years of asking, begging, pleading from my mum (the kitchen dated from the 1960s). Keep at them - the vicar will be just as frustrated by the lack of movement from the diocese as well!

RuddyTrees Mon 25-Jan-16 13:10:13

Fab ideas - thank you all. Sunsof - to think I nearly bought a former vicarage before plumming for this one! It had a rather dated kitchen, too. Must be a thing.

scarednoob Mon 25-Jan-16 13:48:34

A property litigator would probably escalate things for you? You could ask for the letter to be polite but firm if you don't want to fall out with them too badly.

I get that you might not want to have to pay for a lawyer or to take that aggressive step, but it could be an option if nothing is happening!

PowerofThree Mon 25-Jan-16 19:34:30

I don't normally post here but wanted to clarify a few things as I am far more familiar with this process than I would like to be!

It is unlikely to be 'the diocese' that is holding things up. You make reference to the DAC so I presume that they have considered and approved the work. If the problem is with the contractor it is likely to have been picked up either by the legal staff who issue the legal permission for the work (the faculty) or by the PCC when they went back to the contractor. The choice of contractor is entirely up to the parish and the diocesan staff have no involvement with this.

Whilst the bishop might be the top of the pile, he will be basically useless in terms of practicalities as they have no role in permission giving in relation to work in the church or churchyard or finding contractors. Try getting hold of the archdeacon and kicking up a bit of a stink with them - the archdeacon helps parishes with pastoral issues and relations with neighbours would fall under their remit.

This should not take long to resolve or need lots of meetings! The parish need to choose a new contractor who has the right paperwork. If they have got a faculty, they need to tell the legal department the change and ask for the faculty to be revised - the lawyers will probably check that the DAC and the planning authority are happy with the change. Assuming that the work is exactly the same just the contractor has changed that shouldn't be an issue.

If they haven't applied for the faculty yet, then they may find they don't need to any more as the rules changed this year and I believe pollarding can be done under permission from the archdeacon provided that Tree officer has been consulted etc if there is a TPO (which it sounds like they have been). This might be worth asking them about! Though different dioceses may be taking different lines as to whether cases that started before the rule change have to be treated under the old rules and archdeacons can still choose to refer to faculty. But no harm in asking.

Oh and with regard to the money, whilst the diocese may have £60million of property unfortunately the churches won't necessarily benefit from that! Much of the property is likely to be vicarages and not bring in an income. There is not much funding for churches from their diocese - if there is it is often for emergencies. Churches are largely on their own to make income from their church, fundraise from parishioners or get grants from heritage and charitable bodies (who are unlikely to fund pollarding)

RuddyTrees Tue 26-Jan-16 14:07:08

Thanks everyone who posted. PowerofThree - that's fabulous advice, I shall follow it. I've found a contractor who lives right here in the village (small world). I'll pen an email to the Archdeacon & lay out what you've suggested.

Fingers crossed for a positive outcome! Thank you again. wine

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