Church access man sells up

Church Street Nunney

Having failed to block wheelchair access to Nunney Church, Alistair Jacks has put his Church Street barn conversion back on the market.

Church Street Nunney

Nunney Church
The barn conversion is located next to Nunney Church.
Alistair Jacks bought Esther Devlin’s barn conversion in October 2013 for £425,000. Mr Jacks, a property developer from Hampstead, planned to use his Nunney bolthole as a weekend retreat.

The barn conversion is currently back on the market at £475,000, however, a hefty markup in under two years given that estate agents McAllisters describe the property as still “requiring some updating”.

The drive next to the house has provided access to the 12th century church and churchyard for funerals, weddings, concerts, church services and graveyard visits since times immemorial.

The church has a legal obligation to provide access for disabled visitors. Regular access to Nunney Church is via a step flight of steps and a sloping path.

Nunney Church
Regular access to Nunney Church is via a step flight of steps and a sloping path.
Local resident and former Parish Council member Owen Hillier was born in Nunney and can’t remember any time in his 90+ years that the drive was not in regularly used to access the church.

A so-called right of churchway also applies. This is a right of way in favour of the parishioners to go to and from the parish church over the land of a private individual owner, and is enjoyed by parishioners as a means of access to the parish church.

But last summer Mr Jacks had a locked wooden gate installed to block access to the church. He told neighbours that he planned to install an electric gate at the bottom of the drive to – according to independent witnesses – “keep the peasants out”.

He also set out plans to build a 5ft privacy wall across the bottom of the lawn – replacing stunning lavender beds – and replace the tarmac drive with a bendy gravel path.

Nunney Church access
Visitors with mobility problems found themselves unable to visit Nunney Church last summer.
Since then, both Mr Jacks and his part-time gardener were involved in clashes with churchwardens, locals and visitors accessing the church. The police had to be called in only weeks ago after locals were verbally abused and intimidated.

imageWhen push came to shove Jacks backed down and did not contest the long-established right of way. Formal confirmation of the right of access for parishioners and visitors alike followed through the diocese’s legal channels earlier this year.

Bogus signs warning members of the public not to access the ‘Private grounds and driveway – No public right of way’ remain in place to date.