Repair church railings – or I won’t pay my council tax
Bell ringer’s threat over ‘intolerable’ state of railings and path
A church bell ringer threatened to withhold payment of his council tax in a series of email tirades over the state of the railings in Ashford’s Church Yard.
Christopher Cooper first raised his concerns about the state of the railings and paths outside St Mary’s Church in the town centre to Ashford Borough Council last summer.
He contacted the council’s buildings manager John Murray to raise his concerns over the state of the area after Mr Murray told him his team was investigating the situation.
In his first reply on July 16, Mr Cooper wrote that if he did not get a date for work to be carried out, he would stop paying his council tax as an act of “defiance”.
He described the situation as “intolerable” and added: “There is no reason in the world as to why we should be made to accept the ghettoisation which the Church Yard area is slipping into.
“I am quite prepared to endure the weight of the law in suffering for nonpayment of my council tax. I swear obedience only unto God’s law.”
A week later on July 23 Mr Cooper sent another email to Mr Murray “in disgust”, railing against the lack of action being taken to fix the railings, the paving stones and clearing litter. He also reiterated his threat to stop paying his council tax.
Following a response from Mr Murray stating he would check the situation with his surveyor and pass on concerns to relevant authorities, Mr Cooper appeared to back down and agreed to pay his tax.
Then a week later on July 31, Mr Cooper said he was unhappy that a schedule of works had not been made, and claimed the repairs would require more than just repainting.
Mr Murray replied: “My surveyor and I have both inspected the iron railings around the Churchyard. While we are happy that they are not in such condition as to present a hazard, localised specialist repairs are necessary prior to any redecoration work.
“We are currently discussing this with colleagues with a view to agreeing how the works will be progressed. I am sorry but at this precise time I do not have timescales for this.”
Now more than six months later Mr Cooper has been angered by the arrival of £100,000 street signs which help to visitors, but which he claim ruin the view of St Mary’s Church.
He wrote: “If the council’s litmus test as to whether to repair a historical set of railings is simply ‘is it dangerous under health and safety?’ I Serial protester Chris Cooper has been no stranger to expressing his views on the state of St Mary’s Church and its environs.
In 2010 he led a campaign against the conversion of the church into a community arts centre and music venue.
In particular he objected to the removal of historic pews, and camped out in the Church Yard in protest.
He also stored some of the pews in his living room. think we have come to a pretty sad pass.
“I pay my £97 per month in council tax so that the council can splurge it on every left-wing cause under the sun, but still ignore the real work that needs to be carried forward.
“The council can find wads of cash for its pet projects to advance its political ideology, but the cupboard is bare when it comes to keeping our built heritage in good repair.”
He added that he looked forward to a “reply of substance from someone” to address his concerns.
A council spokesman said: “We are aware of the individual complaint, however officers have inspected the railings around the Church Yard.
“We believe there are no major issues with them which need our immediate action.
“Some minor repairs and redecoration are required, and this work will be carried out in due course.”
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Damaged railings in the Church Yard in Ashford where Christopher Cooper says the council is failing in its duty to repair them
Chris Cooper said he was willing to ‘endure the weight of the law’ if his concerns weren’t addressed