The owners of the Church, the Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes had previously relied on the 2015 case of The General Conference of the New Church v. Bristol City Council, to persuade the Council to de-list it as an asset of community value, with the effect that the Church (which closed permanently during the pandemic) was to be auctioned. The effect of the renewed nomination is that the Church has been removed from auction whilst the Council considers the renewed application to list.
In General Conference of the New Church, the First-tier Tribunal had found that the expression “social wellbeing and social interests of the community” in section 88 of the Localism Act 2011 did not encompass religious observances in a church, mosque or synagogue or similar place of worship, and that such a building would not in practice fall within the section unless there is some other non-ancillary use being made of it, which did further social wellbeing/social interests of the local community.
The joint opinion explains why the Council’s decision to de-list the Church was wrong in law. It sets out why General Conference of the New Church decision is not binding on the Council, would have little weight as persuasive authority, and was wrongly decided.
The decision of Maidstone Council to the renewed application is expected to be given in March.