Coventry Diocese urged to show Christian values over threat to Rugby residents' garden extensions

Heartbroken residents of a quiet Rugby road have hit out at Coventry Diocese for demanding they rip up the small extensions to their back gardens they have tended for decades, keeping weeds at the edge of a field at bay.

A little bit of paradise that has been developed over almost 30 years covering a ditch and some wasteground at the edge of the field. The blue cord shows the approximate line of the original boundary. A number of other Montague Road residents have also extended at the back of their gardens. Photo: Rugby Advertiser.
A little bit of paradise that has been developed over almost 30 years covering a ditch and some wasteground at the edge of the field. The blue cord shows the approximate line of the original boundary. A number of other Montague Road residents have also extended at the back of their gardens. Photo: Rugby Advertiser.

A number of homes in Montague Road, Bilton, that back onto the field in question have taken up some extra space – and until now there’s never been a problem.

But with Rugby’s Local Plan moving ahead, the value of the field, which sits next to Cock Robin Wood and fronts the Rugby Road leading from Cock Robin Island to Dunchurch, has been transformed.

And with the diocese looking to cash in, it wants every inch of its land back for the sale.

The view looking towards Cock Robin Wood showing how the neighbours who have extended their land have stopped short of the productive part of the field. Photo: Rugby Advertiser.

The homeowners don’t dispute the diocese owns the land – defined as glebe land to provide money for the church. But having, in some cases, spent almost 30 years creating little bits of paradise on what had been unwanted wasteland, feel it is being heavy-handed – and not living up to its declared Christian mission.

Alan and Lynda Hughes are among those affected and while being fully aware of the Local Plan and the South-West Rugby development, only got the first hint of a problem when they received a letter from Godfrey-Payton surveyors in April on behalf of the diocese.

It identified that, ‘at some points encroachment is occurring’ and said they would be obliged, ‘if you could take steps to remove any items you may have from our client’s land’.

Mr Hughes wrote back to the surveyors and the diocese saying they had gone to solicitors and to seek ‘squatter’s rights’ for the small strip of land involved, having tended it since 1994.

But he implored the diocese to think again: “You have previously shown no interest in this land and we took it over to prevent the ‘jungle’ that was growing there from spreading onto our land. Suddenly now there is money to be made you are interested in this land again.

"Can you not allow us to retain this small strip of land which must be inconsequential in the overall development but means a lot to us.

"Surely you as a religious charity can show your own ‘charitable nature’ by allowing the households of Montague Road to retain this land.”

He goes on to quote the church’s purpose and value statements which talks of transforming communities and of compassion and urges the diocese to consider the residents’ plea with such compassion.

But a follow-up letter from the diocese’s solicitors sent to them last month showing the diocese’s position had not changed and saying it would fight any claim for squatter’s rights and expected to win.

A spokesperson for Coventry Diocese told the Advertiser: “Some residents on Montague Road have extended their gardens onto land that they do not own.

“The land in question is owned by the Coventry Diocesan Board of Finance Limited as glebe land. We are sorry for any distress this may have caused residents; however, we are under a legal obligation to manage the land in accordance with the purpose for which it was given.

“The diocesan property agents have been, and will continue to be, in contact with the home owners to discuss a mutually acceptable resolution to the matter.”