THE OWNERS of a derelict church could be forced to hand it over to the borough council if they cannot pay for improvement works.
Redditch Borough councillors issued the warning to the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham after numerous attempts to make them tidy up the grounds of St Gregory’s Church in Winyates.
The site has become a magnet for anti-social behaviour with break-ins, reports of drug use and fires in the wooded area behind the building, while the grounds have also become heavily overgrown.
Council officers have been visiting the site since 2007 following complaints by residents about its appearance.
They eventually issued a Section 215 notice to the owners earlier this year which ordered them to cut back overgrown plants, repair the roof, replace rotten wood or demolish the building.
But the owners failed to comply with the notice and the property is in such a bad state the council has now had to step in.
At a planning meeting on Wednesday (December 10) councillors voted to authorise funds from the council’s community safety team to be used to clear and secure the site, while also looking at using Compulsory Purchase powers to effectively seize ownership of the land and the option of prosecuting the owners.
Coun Roger Bennett said the issue had been going on for too long and something needed to be done.
“To demolish the building would be an advantage for the owners in my view.” he said.
Coun David Thain added the building was an ‘eyesore’ and a ‘disgrace’.
“They should take their responsibility as land owners seriously and take all means necessary to secure the site. They have had enough time they shouldn’t ignore us.”
Coun Andrew Brazier added he was worried if the council tried to recover the costs of clearing up the site the trustees would not be able to pay it back and a compulsory land purchase order seemed like the only route to take.