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The Church Commissioners have been urged by local MP Peter Luff not to let present financial difficulties affect the decision about the future of Hartlebury Castle and the historic Hurd Library.

The Church Commissioners have been urged not to let present financial difficulties affect the decision about the future of Hartlebury Castle and the historic Hurd Library by Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff.

The Commissioners, who own Hartlebury castle, manage the Church's historic assets, today invested in stock market shares and property, to produce money to support the Church's ministry. The Church Commissioners meet some 18% of the Church's total running costs.

Peter questioned Sir Stuart Bell MP, the parliamentary representative of the Church Commissioners in the House of Commons last week. He asked him:

"Can the hon. Gentleman assure me that the financial pressures facing the Church Commissioners will not lead them to any precipitate action in relation to Hartlebury castle, the historic home of the Bishops of Worcester? He will know that discussions are taking place in Worcestershire to ensure that public access to the castle remains and to ensure the continuity of the Hurd library in its historic location. I hope that the Church Commissioners will continue those very constructive discussions."

In response, Sir Stuart said:

"I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who has taken a strong interest in the castle, as have we, over a period of time. He is aware that my door is always open to any representations that he might wish to make. To return to the broader question about the financial stability of the Church, we invest for the long term and distribute the returns with a view to the long term, thereby aiming to maintain the value of the funds in real terms over time. In other words, we do not allow our support for today's beneficiaries to disadvantage tomorrow's beneficiaries."

Commenting later Peter said:

"The future of Hartlebury castle is still not secure and these testing economic times are just as difficult for the Church as they are for everyone else. There must be a temptation for them to seek the maximum short-term income from disposing of the property. It is vital, therefore, that the Church is reminded of the importance we in Worcestershire attach to Hartlebury castle and the Hurd Library, and that current financial pressures do not influence the decisions about their future.

"I am heartened by Sir Stuart's commitment that the Church invests in the long-term and will not act to the disadvantage of "tomorrow's beneficiaries". Given such support, Hartlebury castle has as every chance of having an equally distinguished future as it has had a past.

"Given sufficient time, I am confident we can find a future for the castle that poses no burdens on local taxpayers but which preserves and indeed enhances the heritage of the county. We could do with more tourist attractions in Worcestershire - so it is in our economic interests too to enable Hartlebury castle to become a bigger attraction than it is now as home to the county museum."


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