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Ex-Supermarket Used as Place of Worship Compulsory Purchase

When Parliament conferred on trustees of religious bodies the right to buy places of worship almost 100 years ago, it may not have envisaged that it would extend to such utilitarian premises as a former supermarket. However, following a tribunal ruling, an ex-shop will become a permanent home for an evangelical church.

The little-known Places of Worship (Enfranchisement) Act 1920 granted trustees the power in certain circumstances to compulsorily purchase churches, chapels and other buildings used for public worship. There was no dispute that the former supermarket, over which the church held a 99-year lease, fell within that category and that the right to buy had been lawfully exercised.

The pension fund that owned the freehold of the premises at one point contended that it should receive compensation of £110,000 for parting with its property. The Upper Tribunal (UT), however, noted that that figure represented the notional market value of the premises with vacant possession and ignored the church’s long lease. The UT fixed the sum payable by the church at £6,839. That sum was made up of £5,989 for the freehold and £850 as compensation for the pension fund’s loss of ground rent over the remaining term of the lease.