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Ownership & Trusts

Land Ownership and Site Trusts

The following notes will try to explain land ownership and site trusts for Church of England (CofE) Schools. From this, responsibility for maintenance and capital works as well as insurance is determined.

The notes refer to “typical” arrangements, although typicality is unusual when dealing with historical land issues!


“Typically”, the buildings of a CofE School and the land on which they stand are owned by the Diocese. The freehold owner on the Land Registry Title is “Lincoln Diocesan Board of Education” (LDBE). LDBE holds the property on Trust for Education in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England. Thus LDBE (or other Site Trustee) has power to compel the governors to run the school as a CofE school.

Sometimes the area of land will include the playground, car park and even a bit more – being a simple oblong plot. In other cases, the boundary is drawn tightly round the edge of the buildings.

The playing field is then owned by the Local Authority.

Land ownership and Trusts do not change when a school converts to an academy or joins a multi academy trust. Usually, the academy will have a 125 year lease from the LEA for the playing fields and a “Church Supplemental Agreement” (CSA) with LDBE (or other Site Trustee) and with the Department for Education. The terms of the CSA ensure that the Site Trustees keep their power over the character of the academy.

Site Trustees

Many schools were established in the mid-nineteenth century and the local incumbent was key to governing the parish school. Sometimes glebe land was given for the school. So not infrequently the Site Trustees were “the Vicar and Church Wardens of the parish and their successors”. Prior to the full incorporation of LDBE, many of these trustees made the Lincoln Diocesan Trust and Board of Finance (LDTBF) their “custodian trustee” – so that LDTBF appears on the Land Registry entry on behalf of the Vicar and Church Wardens. In these cases the responsibility for the Trust remains with the Vicar and Church Wardens.

Other schools may have been in existence for centuries before the Education Acts of Queen Victoria’s reign, having been endowed by the local landed gentry. In these cases there may be a special charity which is the Site Trustee. Such charities may also hold cash funds which can be used to support the school or for other educational purposes. The Trust in this case often does require education “in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England”.

Finally, some CofE schools are simply on rented land, where the landlord may be a charity or may be a private individual. In these cases the Trust for Church Education is really with LDTBF/LDBE. If the school converts to an academy or joins a multi academy trust, there is likely to be a normal lease for the school buildings from the landowner, with a Church Supplemental Agreement in addition.

LDBE is carrying out an exercise to confirm the Site Trustees for all schools in the diocese and ensure that the Site Trustees are comfortable with their responsibilities.

Statutory Transfers

If the school is extended, the new building might encroach onto Local Authority land. In this case the LA is required to transfer the extra piece across to LDTBF (or other Site Trustee). When a new school is built, such a Statutory Transfer could be of the whole site.

This does not apply to academies or multi academy trusts.