Re­pair church rail­ings – or I won’t pay my coun­cil tax

Bell ringer’s threat over ‘in­tol­er­a­ble’ state of rail­ings and path

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Church Yard Row - By Ai­dan Bar­low

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.”

What do you think? Write to Ken­tish Ex­press, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford TN24 8JR or email ken­tish­ex­press@thek­m­

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

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