But before we had much time to develop these ideas I heard from the vicar that the Diocese intended to proceed with the sale by November. We decided to call to say we were still interested.
We had little idea how to negotiate, some ideas about persuading them not to sell the land but keep their ‘family silver’, an idea of working with the Council to develop both sites for a vague community housing scheme and another idea of adding value by unlocking the access road. With these ideas in mind I picked up the phone.
I had never got through to the Diocese Development Manager before, only his answer machine, but this time I did. He was friendly and I felt at ease, and to my surprise he informed me that the Diocese already owned the access road and they had bought it some time ago!
This was news indeed. Our idea of adding value looked a little naïve and now there was no mileage in it. I mentioned that I was pursuing the Right to Build both as an individual and as a community enterprise with the Council and would he be interested in combining the plots for such a venture.
He said they had been trying to purchase the plot from the Council but had not got anywhere for over two years and so the decision had been made to sell now.
At the outset the Diocese had previously obtained outline planning permission for a large vicarage. This consent was due to expire in 6 months, which meant that there was a glimmer of possibility for us.
He advised that Charity Commission rules permitted them to make an ‘off-market’ sale (eg. to us!) provided that they could show that they had achieved 10% above a market price. The market valuation was provided by auctioneers. We could make them an offer.
The plot was due to go to auction in November but we could potentially make a deal where we purchased the church land and access road for an initial sum now, but a further sum later if we managed to develop the Council site. He believed we might have more luck in the future with the Council than he had done to date.