Bidding war pushes sale of the church

Victoria Truman

One of the town’s most iconic churches shattered expectations when it went under the hammer on Monday to fetch £900,000 at auction.

The final bid for The Vale Royal Methodist Church on London Road far exceeded even the upper guide price for the freehold property, which had been set at £600,000.

However, the council confirmed last month that despite the age and prominence of the building it is not listed, even though it is considered a local heritage asset.

The relative freedom to redevelop the 11,000 sq ft property which was originally put on the open market in 2013 – as it was falling into a state of disrepair – led to a ‘bidding war’ which inflated the price.

John Stockey, auctioneer at the auction house Clive Emson, said: “There was a great deal of interest in this lot and we had a number of bidders determined to buy it.

“There were half a dozen really serious bidders as well as others who never got a chance to raise their hand due to the speed of the interested parties’ increased bids.

“This led to a bidding war and a final sale figure that was £300,000 above the higher end of the guide price.”

Local architect John Bullock told the Times last month that there should be several development avenues for the successful bidder to explore, including a ‘multiple residential conversion’.

But the hugely successful auction will not result in a large financial windfall for the local Methodist congregation.

David Trainor, Treasurer for Methodist churches in the Tunbridge Wells area, said the money will be sent to the denomination’s headquarters up north.

“Ultimately, the owner of the church was the Methodist Headquarters in Manchester. They will redistribute a lot of the money to help with the upkeep of other churches around the country.

“Unfortunately we haven’t suddenly become rich.”

The final buyer is not yet known.

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