MP urges church leaders to reconsider Arkengarthdale school sale

The former Arkengarthdale Primary School.

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak has urged church leaders to reconsider the sale of a former Dales primary school, which it had been hoped to redevelop into affordable housing, to a private buyer.

It comes after community leaders in Arkengarthdale wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury asking him to intervene in the matter.

It had been hoped to turn Arkengarthdale C of E Primary School, in Langthwaite, which was forced to close a year ago after the number of pupils fell to just five, into low-cost housing.

The premises, bought from retired Army Colonel Guy Greville Wilson by Arkengarthdale Parochial Church Council for £325 in 1933, was put on the open market two months ago.

A proposal by the not-for-profit charitable Upper Dales Community Land Trust (UDCLT) to create three two-bedroom and one one-bedroom homes for young families has gained widespread support.

However, the current owners, Swaledale with Arkengarthdale Parochial Church Council, say they have been told they are bound by charity law to accept the highest offer for the building, which is understood to be £185,000 from an undisclosed buyer.

In a letter to Andrew Bedford, vice-chair of Swaledale with Arkengarthdale Parochial Church Council, the MP said he understood the council had received a number of offers for the property, including one from the Upper Dales Community Land Trust to develop the school to provide four residential units, two of which would be affordable homes for rent.

He added: “The trust informs me that its offer has not been successful and that the PCC has received a higher offer from another prospective purchaser which it has accepted.

“As someone who has supported the trust, I share its disappointment about this decision.

“The trust’s mission to provide affordable homes for rent in the Yorkshire Dales is an important one for the future sustainability of these rural communities which we are all proud to serve. Opportunities to obtain land and/or property to build on or to convert for affordable housing do not present themselves very often and the sale of the former Arkengarthdale School building has been described as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for the local community.

“I would urge you to explore every possible avenue available to you and I would be grateful if you could let me know whether you are able to consider the community land trust’s offer afresh?”

3 Comments

  1. And I thought charity began at home.
    Where there is a will there is a way.
    What is the more important someone turning the premises into a holiday home or providing accommodation for 4 local couples?

  2. Disappointed if not surprised to see our MP climbing onto a bandwagon. Presumably he is well aware of the principle of charity law which requires charities to get best value. If he thinks that is a problem he is well positioned to change it – or better than the Swaledale PCC who are simply an easy target for a bit of populism.

  3. Justin Welby has dropped yet another clanger. While he lives in luxury in Lambeth Palace, he has denied affordable housing to local people. St. Paul said I am not under law, but Justin clearly is! He puts the law before God. No wonder people leave the church!

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