The Committee appointed by the Archbishops’ Council to hear an objection to a Church Commissioners’ decision to move the residence of the Diocesan Bishop of Bath and Wells has upheld this objection from the Bishop’s Council. This means that the the exchange of residence from the Palace in Wells to The Old Rectory in Croscombe will not now go ahead.
The Committee, which met in Wells from 28-29 April, issued its ruling today, having considered the grounds of objection, and all relevant circumstances, to the Church Commissioners’ decision to move the residence.
“I was honoured to have the opportunity to give evidence as a witness on behalf of the Diocese of Bath and Wells and I’m absolutely delighted that the Archbishops Council has been just and fair and made a common sense decision which will be welcomed and supported by the whole of the Diocese.Read more
Tessa Munt: To ask the right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, what consideration the Church Commissioners gave to the historical or other interest of the residence at the Bishop’s Palace at Wells before planning alternative accommodation for the bishop in accordance with section 4 of the Episcopal Endowments and Stipends Measure 1943. 
Sir Tony Baldry: Section 4 of the Episcopal Endowments and Stipends Measure 1943 applies only where the Commissioners propose to exercise a power conferred by that Measure—that is to say, to transfer a house to the diocesan authority, convert it for use for other purposes, sell, let or otherwise dispose of it, or demolish it or part of it. The Commissioners have not exercised any of those powers in relation to the Palace, as the intention is that the Bishop will continue to work and worship there.
Tessa Munt: To ask the right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will publish a complete list of the grounds considered valid for the purposes of an objection to the exchange of the house of residence of the Bishop of Bath and Wells by the Bishop’s Council and Standing Committee. 
Sir Tony Baldry: It is for the Archbishops’ Council, or any committee appointed by it to consider the objection, to decide whether the objection should be upheld or not. That decision will depend on the specific facts of the particular case. The Archbishops’ Council is required by virtue of the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations 2009 to consider “all relevant circumstances”, which includes but is not limited to the grounds of the objection. There is therefore no such list in existence.
Today, the Board of the Church Commissioners is meeting in private to discuss a range of financial matters. Tessa has been informed that the future residency of the Bishop of Bath and Wells in on the agenda.
Sir Tony Baldry, Second Church Estates Commissioner, is rumoured to have written a note to the Board as he unable to attend. This is thought to give his ‘take’ on the ‘activities’ that have taken place both in Wells and Westminster following the Commissioners’ announcement of plans to remove the Bishop from the flat in the Palace in Wells.
“We’ve shown Sir Tony the private flat and gardens at the Bishop’s Palace, we’ve had a public meeting, we’ve heard the wise advice of the Diocese and the Palace Trust, we’ve delivered a petition which gathered over 2,000 signatures to the Church of England’s General Synod and to Parliament, Questions have been asked of the Church Commissioners and the Leader of the House of Commons in Parliament and at General Synod, I’ve raised this with the Speaker of the House of Commons and even questioned the Prime Minister on this matter.”Read more
The City of Wells made history today when local MP Tessa Munt presented a petition of more than two thousand signatures to the General Synod of the Church of England on the first day of its meeting at Church House, Westminster.
The petition was based on the wording of a motion proposed by the Venerable Dick Acworth and supported overwhelmingly by those at a packed meeting in Wells just over a fortnight ago. Tessa had called the meeting in order that local people could make their views known to Sir Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner.
The petition calls for the Church Commissioners to pause, to allow the new Bishop to move into the Bishop’s Palace in Wells and for the Commissioners to reconsider and to consult widely before making a final decision on the Bishop’s accommodation.
Speaking from Westminster, Tessa said:
“This is an important day in the campaign to ask the Church Commissioners to listen to the people they are here to represent, but it’s by no means the end!Read more
Many people have contacted me about the Church Commissioners’ plan to prevent the new Bishop of Bath and Wells from living in the flat in the Bishop’s Palace.
I am writing to provide an update and to ask for your help by signing my email petition below.
I had hoped that when Sir Tony accepted my invitation to visit Wells last Saturday in order to answer the many questions raised by local people, the Church Commissioners would have made a supreme effort to brief him fully. However, questions remain as to exactly why the Church Commissioners have come to the conclusion that the flat in the Bishop’s Palace is “not suitable” for the incoming Bishop and his wife – who have not been consulted on the matter.
Towards the end of Saturday’s meeting, there was an overwhelming majority in favour of Dick Acworth’s motion calling for the decision to be reviewed. Dick’s motion stated: “This meeting believes that the Church Commissioners have made a serious mistake and should reconsider”. There was one abstention; there were no votes against. I have written to the Church Commissioners to inform them of the result. I await their response and will let you know what they say.
Over the last seven days, there have been articles in The Daily Telegraph and The Times, following on from a very helpful article in ‘Country Life’ last Wednesday. Today, I asked the Prime Minister about the Bishop’s accommodation during our weekly Prime Minister Questions’ session in the House of Commons. I am pushing for a meeting with the Prime Minister in his capacity as an Ex-Officio Member of the Church Commissioners as he may have some influence on the outcome.Read more
Statement from the Bishop of Taunton and senior staff of the Diocese of Bath & Wells re: Bishop of Bath & Wells accommodation
“The Diocese wishes to express publicly its opposition to the Church Commissioners’ decision that the next Bishop of Bath & Wells will not live at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells.
Despite ample time and opportunity, the Church Commissioners have failed to undertake effective consultation at a local level. Instead they have taken a unilateral decision which has, sadly, cast a shadow over the announcement of our next Bishop.
Based on the scarce information made available to us by the Commissioners, the Diocese cannot support their decision. If there is a persuasive case for the move, it has yet to be made.
We call upon the Church Commissioners to allow the next Bishop of Bath & Wells to begin his new role in residence at the Palace whilst a full and proper consultation about the long-term plans for the Bishop’s residence and office arrangements takes place.”
Rt Revd Peter Maurice, Bishop of Taunton
The Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells
The Ven John Reed, Archdeacon of Taunton
The Ven Andy Piggott, Archdeacon of Bath
Revd Preb Stephen Lynas, Bishop’s Chaplain
Preb Dr Catherine Wright, Dean of Women Clergy
Nick Denison, Diocesan Secretary
Harry Musselwhite, Chair of the Board of Finance
Last week, local MP Tessa Munt requested that Sir Tony Baldry, who answers to Parliament for the actions of the Church Commissioners, attends a public meeting in Wells to listen to her constituent’s concerns about the Church Commissioners’ decision to move the new Bishop’s living accommodation away from the City.
The location date and time have now been confirmed as Wells Museum, Saturday 25th January between 12.00 and 13.30. Residents are invited to attend. Tea and coffee will be served and the meeting will finish at 13.30 promptly.
If you would like any information do not hesitate to write to or email Tessa at the addresses below:
Office of Tessa Munt MP
16th January 2014
Yesterday, local MP Tessa Munt met with Sir Tony Baldry MP, who answers to Parliament for the actions of the Church Commissioners, and Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners in Parliament.
Tessa took the opportunity to summarise her constituents’ concerns about the decision to move the new Bishop’s living accommodation away from the City, the historic home of the Bishops of Bath and Wells for some 800 years.Read more
Having tabled a Parliamentary Question, Tessa has since received an answer from the Church Commissioners:
Tessa has asked further questions which arise from the statement made in the letter.
“I’m meeting with Sir Tony Baldry and Andrew Brown in Parliament this morning. Sir Tony has also agreed to come to Wells to meet local people who are concerned about what is happening”.
I will of course keep people updated when I have a date in the diary”
15th January 2014
Local MP Tessa Munt has asked the Church Commissioners’ spokesperson in Parliament why the Bishop of Bath and Wells is to be moved from the modest flat within the Bishop’s Palace to a house outside Wells reportedly costing £700,000.
“The Church Commissioners made a decision on 28th November that moving the Bishop away from the Bishop’s Palace would help him carry out his ministry and mission with more “privacy”. We have been blessed with effective and engaging Bishops for as long as I can remember, and the Palace provides a unique, atmospheric and contemplative environment for those involved in its life, including the many visitors.”Read more