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LN: Czech parish fails to transfer ruined church to state

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Prague. Oct 26 (CTK) – A Roman-Catholic parish wants to get rid of its ruined church in Ustek, north Bohemia, which is listed as cultural heritage, by transferring it to the state, but a court has refused to approve such a transfer, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes yesterday.
It points out that the cases of giving up dilapidated real estate in favour of the state are quite rare in the Czech Republic nowadays.
However, the situation might change with a new law on heritage protection, which the government approved last November. If passed by parliament, it would take effect in January 2018. Under the legislation, the owners of heritage sights who do not look after them duly would face high fines of several million crowns.
The Baroque St Havel Church from the mid-18th century in Ustek has been decaying for decades. Its roof has collapsed and instead of windows, the building has just empty holes. Two years ago, an expert estimated the reconstruction costs at 20 million crowns, the paper says.
The parish in Konojedy, which owns the church, claims it does not have money to renovate it. This is why it wrote “a statement on abandoning the property” attempting to transfer it to the state, or the Office for Government Representation in Property Affairs (UZSVM) in particular.
After the land registry office refused to carry out the property transfer, the parish turned to a court. It argued that the church had not served its original purpose for 70 years. Sheep were grazing there in the 1970s, it said.
However, the regional court stood up for the state that was not willing to assume responsibility for the building, LN writes.
The court has ruled that cultural heritage owners are obliged to take care of it at their own expenses and if they want to circumvent the law by abandoning the property expediently, their behaviour is contrary to morality.
The court has also pointed out that the parish owned the church even before the 1989 fall of the communist regime, and consequently, it had enough time to redress the situation, LN writes.
The church was not part of the restitution process, that is the return of the property confiscated from churches after the Communists seized power in 1948. If this had been the case, the court would have taken it into consideration in its ruling, LN says.
Ustek Mayor Pavel Kundrat says the town has been debating the church with the heritage commission for several years, but that it cannot invest in the property that is not municipal. He has named a few ways of saving the heritage, for instance, by the involvement of volunteers or subsidy programmes, LN writes.
“Neither the church nor any entities can expediently expect the state to take over dilapidated real estate automatically,” UZSVM spokesman Radek Lezatka said.
He admitted that the number of such cases might rise after the new legislation on heritage protection took effect. Yet, the office is prepared to keep defending the state interests in this respect, he added.
The Culture Ministry points out that heritage owners can seek various forms of financial support for its reconstruction and maintenance.
“The ministry, regions and a number of municipalities have launched their subsidy programmes that enable the owners of cultural heritage sights to co-fund their reconstruction,” Culture Ministry spokeswoman Simona Cigankova told LN.
($1=24.846 crowns)

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