Covenant holding up sale of ancient church

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CAMPAIGNERS trying to safeguard the future of ancient Woodhorn Church are calling on the Church of England to maintain a restrictive covenant which is hindering its sale.

The county council, which is trying to sell the building, wants the church to ease the covenant.

Town councillors are keen to maintain public access and hope to meet the Archdeacon of Lindisfarne, the Venerable Peter Robinson, to ask him to champion the cause.

The Grade I listed building near Newbiggin, the oldest on the Northumberland coast, has been declared surplus to requirements and put up for sale by Northumberland County Council.

Only a few tenders were received and just one was deemed acceptable under the covenants and conditions for use, which include a ban on commercial trading.

That potential buyer has now pulled out for personal reasons and the building is in limbo again.

Coun Will Rogers said: “At the moment, the covenant says there should be access to the church on request and we want that to continue.”

Newbiggin town councillors have now decided to ask the county council to consult them and the wider community before making any decisions about the fate of the building.

The Church of St Mary may be the site granted to the Lindisfarne religious community in 739AD.

The present building dates mainly from an 1842 restoration, but many internal features survive from before the Norman Conquest.

It was open to the public as a museum for almost 20 years, but closed in October 2000 as a larger successor was built in the nearby Queen Elizabeth II Country Park.