JEMIMA Khan is embroiled in a row over car access to a churchyard on her estate.

Journalist and film-maker Ms Khan, now known by her maiden name of Goldsmith, bought Kiddington Hall, near Woodstock, in 2010.

Oxford Mail:

The stately home has 466 acres of surrounding landscaped parkland.

St Nicholas’ Church is in grounds of the Hall and although there is pedestrian right of access to the churchyard, car access and parking is by courtesy.

Christopher and Wendy Earl, from Cowley, make the 80-minute round trip to the church on special occasions to lay flowers on family members' graves.

Oxford Mail:

Mr Earl said: “We turned up one day and we could not get in. I have double arthritis and walk with two sticks. Walking up is difficult, not just for me but for any disabled person.

“The previous owner of the Hall always left the gate open, it’s been like that for ever. We never had a problem until it was bought by Jemima Khan."

He added: “We wrote to the Bishop of Oxford and he passed us on to the Bishop of Dorchester. Apparently they were meeting with Jemima Khan and it was resolved. There was a buzzer system so that we could call the Hall for access and someone would open the gate.

Oxford Mail:

“But we went in August and nobody was around at the Hall and it was only because some people were driving out that we could get in.

"Last week, the buzzer was not working at all.”

Miss Goldsmith, who is the daughter of financier Sir James Goldsmith and former wife of ex- cricketer and now prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, reportedly paid £15million for the estate described as a "jewel in the heart of Oxfordshire".

Mrs Earl added: “I spoke to a young gardener and asked him what the problem was with the buzzer system and he said there’s nobody in the hall to open the gate and all the staff had a day off. We had to walk round again.

“One time we were there they would not open the gate and luckily David Cameron turned up, taking his daughter horse-riding and he had the code and let us in.”

Revd Stephen Jones, vicar of Wootton, Glympton and Kiddington, explained that although the pedestrian access is a legal right of way, the driveway is not.

He said: “It’s a problem we have had, this has come up before. The difficulty is we should be able to press a button and someone should answer.

“It was not resolved because we have not got the right to demand entrance. People coming to the gate should be able to get an answer through pressing the button on the machine.”

Mrs Earl said: “If there’s nobody to answer the buzzer then surely they should leave the bottom gate open.

“They said originally it was because they had a burglary but anyone can get in anyway because there’s a pedestrian gate.”

A spokesperson for Jemima Khan said the gardener who is resident on the property gave his personal mobile to the couple in question, in case they ever needed to gain vehicular access in the future.

She added: "There has always been a prominent sign up beside the gates indicating that you can ring the bell to gain vehicular access at any time of any day including weekends (it is currently being repaired after someone drove into it!) and the gates are always open for church services.  

"The gate was not left open before by the previous owner- it didn’t exist. Jemima reinstated the original gate for security reasons after having an ongoing problem with two male stalkers with criminal records.

"She has never had any complaints and all of her neighbors have been very understanding about the situation."

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Oxford said a small number of its churches sit on private land.

"In each case, the landowner graciously grants access to the church building beyond what is required of them by law. At St Nicholas’ Church there is a buzzer system installed and 24 hour pedestrian and wheelchair access.

"It is worth noting that nobody attending the Church, or anyone living within the parish, has reported any issues with access and the estate staff make sure that there is always access for church services, weddings and funerals."

The Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Gavin Collins added: “Jemima Goldsmith is very supportive of the local church and community.

"We are grateful for all she has done to ensure ease of access for parishioners and graveyard visitors alike and we are happy to affirm the arrangements currently in place.”


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