Bishop blasts Church Commissioners for property decision
The decision to sell the Octavia Hill estates to a private partnership has effectively destroyed the missionary work of the Church in the community, according to a senior Bishop.
The Church Commissioners decided to sell the Octavia Hill estates, housing 1,100 tenants, including key workers like ambulance staff and teachers, despite claims by MPs and Christian housing groups that it was only interested in profit.
Peter Selby, the Bishop of Worcester has said he has been left personally distressed by the ordeal and has been highly critical of the way that the matter has been handled, reports the Church of England Newspaper.
Residents on the estates and their local clergy have expressed their outrage at the Church's sale of the properties, claiming that it will force them out of their homes as the majority are low paid, Key Workers.
Bishop Selby, who voted against the sale, said the attitude of the tenants was not surprising as the group had shown disregard for their concerns. It had acted with no accountability, he said. Referring to the Windsor Report, he said that its profound criticism of the way individuals had used legal structures as a basis for refusing to listen to the concerns of others was applicable in this case. 'I thought we had a process for engaging with the people, but while we might talk, we don't listen.
'This issue will run because of the vital issues it raises about how the church is organising its life and who is accountable to whom.
'We took a major missionary decision on Friday and abandoned a century of good work. It is very important that if we have decided to abandon the memory of Octavia Hill and her legacy we can at least do her the honour of remembering how we have behaved.'
He added: 'This contributes to the quiet despair that people have about the Church. It will lead them to ask whether it really cares.'
Gary Kirk, Chairman of Vauxhall CC Residents' Association, said: 'It is deeply worrying that the established Church, to which many of us look to for guidance and leadership, has deserted Christian teachings in favour of greed and selfishness.
'I am convinced that this wicked decision on their part will have many negative repercussions.'
The Church Commissioners defended their decision, arguing that the new owners are more likely to be able to make necessary investments in the properties and that a registered social landlord, Pathmeads Housing Association, would be managing them.
Mr Kirk said that the Association has a worrying record, having ceased to offer Key Worker lets in the previously sold part of the Waterloo estate and all new lets are to be at full market rate.
In a letter to Andreas Whittam Smith, First Estates Commissioner, Brendan Mooney, one of the estate's residents, said that the decision had taken away their hopes and would prove a stumbling block to belief in the goodness of the Christian Church.
'The credibility of the Church will be judged by the choice the Assets Committee have made for Mammon over and above justice today', he said.
He said that the new landlords, the Genesis Housing Group and The Grainger Trust, would inevitably price them out.
The Rev Giles Goddard, Rector at St Peter's church in Walworth, said: 'The Commission has ridden roughshod over the views of the Church.'
He said that many of the residents would be forced out and expressed his fear that some could be forced onto the streets.
Paul Clark, Chief Surveyor for the Church Commissioners said that the sale would prove to be of benefit to the residents in the longer term.