Shropshire Star

'Gazumped' community group appeal to church bosses after land was sold to developers

A Shropshire community group that was 'gazumped' over a land deal when the Church of England sold the site to developers, has appealed to the Christian values of church bosses and asked them to change their mind.

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Members of the Floyer Lane Community Group on the site they were gazumped on

Members of Floyer Lane Community Group said the church had accepted their offer to to buy the land in Benthall, just outside Broseley, which they planned to turn into a nature area.

Despite winning a sealed tender process with the Church of England's asset department, the Church Commissioners, which owns the land, sold it from under them to developer Boningale Homes, who plans to build 100 homes on the land.

Richard Smith from the group says residents remained "incredibly frustrated" by the behaviour of the Church Commissioners.

He said that last month, the group wrote to the Church Commissioners and urged it to reverse its decision, arguing the registered charity was in breach of its own ethical standards.

It the letter, the group said: "We are writing to you to request that you withdraw from the sale of 24 acres of land at Hilltop Farm, Floyer Lane, Benthall, Shropshire."

The letter continued: "At a meeting with your officers, we learned that you are legally able to withdraw from the sale and we ask you to consider whether this would give you an opportunity to review your procedures."

The group claim the Church Commissioners are breaking their own charity rules around "social, ethical and environmental values".

The group said: "In asking you to withdraw from the sale of the land, we would ask you to consider three areas: damage to the charity itself, ethics and the meaning of 'value' to an organisation such as the Church Commission.

"Therefore, we as a community, ask the Church Commissioners to withdraw from the sale of this land to the developer Boningale Homes.

"We encourage you to see this as an opportunity. We understand that many individuals within the Church Commissioners have been surprised and discomfited by being in this position.

"Is it possible, then, to see this as an opportunity to fill in the gaps, review and renew your policies and procedures, and enter a new era of being able to fully express and work to your values, ethics and purpose?"

A spokesperson for the Church Commissioners said the charity has written back to the Floyer Lane Community Group but added that they would not be commenting further on the land sale row.