Putting All Saints Church's perspective on Linmere developments

  • Church policy on sale of glebe: from The Church Times, and reproduced here with the permission of the author, Revd Diego Galanzino, the parish priest at All Saints Houghton Regis.  
Fr Diego added, “I have been meaning to write a similar letter to the local papers just in an attempt to set the record straight. People see the new signage for Linmere (“brought to you by the Diocese of St Albans”) and they may assume we got money out of it. Not so, if anything in 2020 All Saints’ was technically £100k in the red thanks to arrears on diocesan quota! 

From the Revd Diego Galanzino, 

Sir, — I am looking at social media around my patch, Houghton Regis, in Bedfordshire, and I often see posts of people enraged by the sale of glebe land. These posts raise quite difficult conversations for me, both in person and online, and they foster a damaging attitude of mistrust towards “the Church” in general.

Social-media comments from angry people are often simplistic and full of hatred, I grant you, but the sentiments behind this should not be dismissed. Indeed, some of these sentiments are shared by members of my congregation as well.

I would like to point out a few causes of discontent both among the local population and among worshippers. 

(1) The glebe land here was sold for commercial and industrial use rather than much-needed housing; 

(2) it was sold without involving a simple consultation with the PCC or parish representatives (indeed, without even telling the PCC); 

(3) part of the land could have been used for a new cemetery — we have run out of space at both the council and church burial grounds and my people have to pay three times as much to have their loved ones buried in Dunstable or Luton; 

(4) none of the profits from the sale have been intentionally reinvested in the town community; and 

(5) none of the profits from the sale have benefited the Parish of Houghton Regis.

Incidentally, the last two points have been raised at diocesan synod, with bishops, DBF chairs, and archdeacons on several occasions by other synod reps and by me, but always been brushed aside. We need new schools, new surgeries, new facilities, in a town that is rapidly doubling in size. . .

As a parish, we are shackled by quota requests that are unreasonable for our area and by the budgetary deficit created by not meeting these; we cannot have a curate again, because there is no accommodation; we have to engage in mission and to restore a Grade I listed building, pleading for funds from secular charities while parochial fees and Common Fund standing orders take most of the funds away.

Lay leaders, my partner, and I have had to bankroll or subsidise various aspects of our common life or events. Finally (truly the icing on the cake), we were asked to spend our reserves to meet the quota during the lockdowns — which, by the way, would not even have amounted to half the Common Fund bill.

I understand that there are legal matters underpinning all this, and that simplistic arguments are never the way to debate properly; but just how is this picture fair? And how can we convince the local population that the sale of glebe land was a good thing — if, indeed, this was a good thing at all? Or how can we respond to those who look at the Archbishop’s new cunning plans for glebe land nationally with mistrust and anger?

The Clergy House, Lowry Drive
Houghton Regis
Bedfordshire LU5 5SJ

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