The owners of the historic Cottle Church in Nevis have decided to abruptly end some four years early a lease given by the Nevis Historical and Conservation Trust, a UK Trust Company.

In a press release sent out this past week, Clive Mitchell, a trustee of the Nevis Historical and Conservation Trust, informed of the Chaderton’s family (the owners of the Cottle Church property) decision to end their lease.

“The Trust has recently been informed by the Chaderton family lawyers that their lease is to be terminated, some four years before it is due to end, and when it could be renewed,” the release states. “No reasons have been given for this action and no suggestion made that the Trust has breached any of the conditions of the lease. It is hoped that some arrangements can be made in Nevis to ensure that the church and its grounds continue to be maintained for the public benefit.”

Cottle Church has been designated one of the historical sites on Nevis. It was the first Anglican Church in the Caribbean where blacks and whites use to worship. Construction of the church began after the sugar crop of 1822 and was sited in the middle of Cottle’s sugar plantation at Round Hill, the family house across the ghaut. The modern house, which stands on its foundations, can be seen from the island road. The church was built with locally quarried stone laid with a lime-based mortar surmounted by a wooden roof.

According to Mitchell, the Trust was granted a 20-year renewable lease by the owners of the half-acre site, the Chaderton family, on condition that the site was maintained as a protected historical site.

“Over the years,” the release stated, “the church has attracted many hundreds of visitors (as evidenced by TripAdvisor); some have been married there; school and community groups have been encouraged to use the well-maintained grounds for meetings and lectures. Since 2001, the UK Trust has also donated [more than] EC$25,000 to the NHCS.”

The Observer contacted executive director of the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society, Nichole Liburd, who noted they are waiting for a meeting with the family and the Trust to have the issue resolved.

“We were giving them an opportunity to get to the bottom of it before we get involved and we are still at that point,” she said. “We are waiting to discuss it with the family to find out what exactly it is that they want and why they want to end the lease early, and we have not had a chance to do that as yet.”

The Observer understands that the family gave notice to the Trust in January 2017 of their plans to end the lease.

However, according to the laws of the federation, the Nevis Island Administration has great say on the future of Cottle Church. According to the National Conservation and Environment Protection Act, “Where the minister determines that any private land or interest in such land shall be acquired for a protected area under this act, acquisition procedures under the land acquisition act shall apply and the acquisition shall be deemed to be for a public purpose.”

Section 15 (1) notes the “minister may designate by order … a competent authority to be responsible for the management and administration of any protected area established pursuant to this act, and such order shall specify the particular protected area to be under the jurisdiction of the competent authority and the extent of the powers and function of such competent authority”

The Observer made an attempt Thursday to contact the Chaderton’s family lawyer, Hydi-Lyn Sutton, but was unsuccessful .