A newspaper website called This is the West Country (made up of local papers including the Taunton Star, the Bridgwater Mercury, and the Somerset County Gazette) carries a story with additional details of the problems arising from permissions to repair the gravesite of Evelyn Waugh, his second wife and his daughter Margaret. See earlier posts. The story again acknowledges that the Waugh Family, as quoted by Alexander Waugh in the article, is prepared to pay for necessary repairs and improvements, including reparation of the retaining wall between the graves and the churchyard and steps from the churchyard up to the graves. A photo of the cracks in the retaining wall accompanies the article. While the local council authorities and the local parish church and its governing archdeacon appear to support these actions, none will accept responsibility for issuing permission:
The Ven John Reed, Archdeacon of Taunton, said the upkeep and maintenance of the closed churchyard is Taunton Deane Borough Council’s responsibility. He added: “It’s very much in their gift to give permission to the plans put forward by the Waugh family, including the mending of the boundary wall between churchyard and the private plot of the Waugh family graves. If the graves were within the existing consecrated ground of the churchyard the plans could be sanctioned by the Church. Sadly the graves aren’t. The Parochial Church Council has and is continuing to do all it can in its diminutive capacity to help the Waugh family.”
A Taunton Deane Borough Council spokeswoman said: “Taunton Deane Borough Council is aware of the issues at Combe Florey and has done everything possible to try to achieve a resolution. However, it is unable to give permission for work on the retaining wall as it is not owned by the council and therefore it is not in the authority’s power to grant permission. While Taunton Deane carries out day-to-day maintenance in the closed churchyard, the land itself has not been transferred to the authority – ownership and management remain with the Church. The wall in question is a retaining wall, retaining private land behind the church and thus is taken to belong to the owner of the land retained and so it’s beyond our powers to authorise any works.”
A possible solution might be to have both the authorities of the church and local government issue statements that, in the presence of doubt and without claiming lawful jurisdiction over the matters, each authority grants such permission “to the extent necessary and as might be within its powers if it possessed such jurisdiction” to proceed with the repairs and improvements. In the alternative, they might simply state that neither has any objection to proceeding. That might not be as good as a building permit but should satisfy a cooperative building contractor.