Church hits back at council claim

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ST Mary’s Church has hit back at claims it only took action to remedy the landslip (pictured) on the East Cliff because it was served with legal documents.

Last week, the Gazette reported how the church had been landed with a £90,000 bill after Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) issued a notice ordering that drainage repairs be carried out.

But this week, churchwarden and treasurer Tom Saunders said it was money the church could barely afford and Rector of Whitby, Rev Canon David Smith, had already set the wheels in motion for repair works long before legal papers were issued by SBC.

He had already been in touch with the Diocese of York asking for special permission to carry out works and sourced possible contractors.

Mr Saunders said: “The suggestion their legal notice brought it about is not true, we would have done it.

“The Rector had already commenced work in response, in Christian manner, to avoid harm or distress to the possible victims.

“Secondly, Scarborough were keen to divorce themselves from any cost implications, so passed the blame as quickly as possible.”

Last year it cost £200,000 just to open the doors at the four churches within the Whitby parish – St Mary’s, St John’s, St Hilda’s and St Bartholomew’s in Ruswarp before additional repair bills were added on.

He calculated that with only 300 regular congregation members between the four churches to ask them to fund running them would cost around £7000 each.

Despite a bequest to St Mary’s of hundreds of thousands of pounds it is ring fenced specifically for that church and will now fund the landslip works.

Mr Saunders added: “Our contribution to the infrastructure of the town is not insignificant. SBC, without cost, and the town benefit from this and always expect the churches to be available when needed for worship, baptisms, weddings and funerals.

“Our resources are not limitless and begs the question if we were not able to respond on would SBC have assumed more credit for the project?”