On Wednesday 10 September 2014, the Second Church Estates Commissioners, the Rt Hon. Sir Tony Baldry MP, answered written questions from Helen Goodman MP about the sale of land in Bishop Auckland, and from Ben Bradshaw MP about purchased televisions.
Church of England: Land
Helen Goodman: To ask the right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, whether the Church Commissioners have set criteria excluding some bidders from the purchase of its land currently for sale near Bishop Auckland.
Sir Tony Baldry: The Church Commissioners are operating an open and transparent marketing and bidding process for the property for sale near Bishop Auckland.
The Church Commissioners’ bidding process leaves no room for undue influence by any interested party. The Church Commissioners have not set criteria that would exclude any party from submitting offers, and all offers will be considered without prejudice or preference.
As a registered charity the Church Commissioners are under a legal duty to demonstrate that they have maximised the proceeds of sale of their assets to fund the wider mission and ministry of the Church of England, particularly in areas of need.
Helen Goodman: To ask the right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, for what reasons land owned by the Church near Bishop Auckland is for sale.
Sir Tony Baldry: The Church Commissioners own areas of land across England, including four rural estates in the north-east. As with other land and property owners, we review these holdings from time to time, based on a variety of commercial and other factors. Following a review, the Commissioners took the decision to offer a number of farms in the Bishop Auckland area on the open market. They continue to own other land and estates in County Durham.
Helen Goodman: To ask the right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, for what reasons the land for sale at Binchester has been divided into two lots
Sir Tony Baldry: The estate is being offered as a whole or in 10 separate lots. Lot 5 is a working farm and part of the farm includes largely unexcavated parts of the Binchester Roman Fort. The excavated part of the Fort, and the other unexcavated area, form part of Lot 6. The lotting takes account of a number of factors including practical boundaries and issues on the ground. For instance, if all of the unexcavated areas had been included in Lot 6, Binchester Hall Farmhouse and yard would be severed from the rest of the farm holding.
Helen Goodman: To ask the right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps are being taken to ensure continued public access to Binchester Roman Fort.
Sir Tony Baldry: Binchester Roman Fort is a scheduled ancient monument. It is a criminal offence to disturb a scheduled ancient monument by carrying out works without Scheduled Monument Consent, or causing reckless or deliberate damage to the monument. To offer best protection, public access to the excavated parts of the Fort is managed and controlled in accordance with a Deed of Guardianship with Durham County Council. This means that, as Guardians, Durham County Council must allow access to the site, but are able to do so in such a way as protects and preserves the site for the future. The property will be sold subject to this Deed of Guardianship.
Church Commissioners: Television
Mr Bradshaw: To ask the right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, how much the Church Commissioners spent on televisions in (a) 2013 and (b) 2014 to date.
Sir Tony Baldry: The Church Commissioners have not purchased any televisions during the specified period. Three televisions have been purchased since 2013 for other departments of the National Church Institutions at an average price of £289.