A BATTLE has begun to stop the sale of an old school in Wirral.
Campaigner Gerard Patten claims St Mary’s School in Eastham cannot be sold off as the property belongs to the people of the village.
The Diocese of Chester has confirmed the school will be put on the market in September.
But Mr Patten wants to see it used as a community centre.
He has seen the deeds to from 1854 which shows villagers paid more than £2,000 for the land and to build the school.
Gerard, whose two sons went to the school, told Wirral News: “St Mary’s was built on the understanding it was used as a school for the people of Eastham.
“The building should be given back to the village.
“The deed says it should be ‘without interruption and free from all incumbrance’ – which means free from anyone claiming the property and shouldn’t be tampered with.
“I have been wrangling with the Church of England Diocese of Chester for six years and haven’t had a straight answer. Each time they have made up excuses .
“I have suggested bringing it back to community use and had put together a plan of how it would generate enough income.”
St Mary’s is a grade two listed building, and has been empty for several years.
Mr Patten’s wife, Pamela, said: “My grandmother, mum and two brothers went to the school. It is sad that it has been empty for the past few years.
“It would be a shame if it was sold off.
“I would like it to be used as a village hall and community centre.
“I walk past it every day and see it left empty and unused. I miss hearing the children.”
Mr Patten added: “The church did not pay for the school.
“Villagers paid £200 for the land to the Naylor Trust in 1856, and another £814 for build the school. In total villagers raised over £2,000 to build it.
“How can they sell the school if they don’t own it?
A spokesman for the Diocese of Chester confirmed the school building will be sold and the profit will go to the rightful heir.
He said: “The former St Mary’s CofE primary school was closed by Wirral Council in August 2007.
“At first the trustees, the vicar of Eastham and churchwardens, declined to sell the building as it was hoped it would be made available to the community.
“They did this with the support of the CofE Diocesan Board of Education.
“Since August 2007 the trustees have ensured that maintenance costs for the school building have been met.
“But after several years of frustrating negotiations with likely heirs of the building, the trustees have now decided that the old school should be sold, as dictated by charity law.
“The claim repeatedly made locally that the school building belongs to the people of Eastham is wrong.
“That claim has no legal basis, we have been advised.
“After the school is sold, the profit will go to the heirs of those who originally gave the land. And those people are still the subject of legal examination.”