Controversy has broken out in North Tawton following recent news that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has agreed to award the St Peter’s Church lych gate listed building status.

Last week, the public body Historic England, informed the town that the lych gate was now a Grade II listed building due to its architectural and historic interest. This comes after North Tawton resident and councillor Christian Martin applied for it to be added to the list.

But the news has disappointed the town council, which is concerned that the newly-appointed status will put an extra strain on council finances and result in difficulties sourcing tradespeople to carry out appropriate renovation work in the future. These concerns have arisen as the council is financially responsible for the lych gate and the accompanying closed churchyard of which it took ownership in 1949.

North Tawton Town Council chairman Colin Lee, said: “North Tawton Town Council’s experience with the clock tower is that consultation with Listed Building planning officers to obtain permissions for works to a listed building is an extremely lengthy exercise.

“The town council’s experience with the clock tower, which is Grade II listed was that, in total, 16 companies were asked to quote for the work and only two companies were prepared to quote due to the specialist repair instructed by Listed Building Control, which inevitably incurs a higher charge rate. The town council are of the belief that the listing of the lych gate would result in similar problems and the only result would be delays and increased cost to taxpayers.”

At a November meeting, the full council discussed Historic England’s invitation to comment on the application for listed status and agreed “to respond that [it did] not believe the lych gate to be architecturally important.” The council also agreed that listed status was unnecessary as the lych gate “is in the conservation area, therefore the conservation officer would have [to] be involved in approving works.”

But Cllr Martin has argued that, despite the restrictions placed on listed buildings, the listing is good news for the town and will put it on the map as one of the few places in Devon to have such an old church momument.

He said: “The nearest listed lych gate to North Tawton can be found in Monkokehampton - across Dartmoor, and Devon, there are only 58 that have been listed. The listing of North Tawton’s lych gate brings the total to 59 which is a great feather in the town’s cap.”

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport document stated that listed status had been granted due to the lych gate’s “carefully-composed design that reflects its medieval predecessors in its form and its emphasis on vernacular building traditions, materials and craftsmanship” and “for its degree of survival and good detailing such as the chamfered and stopped timbers and the trefoil motif to the gablets.”

The gate is now one of three listed buildings on the church premises including the church itself which is Grade I-listed and the Grade II-listed medieval cross in the churchyard.

The lych gate is currently undergoing renovation, funded by North Tawton residents who donated to the clock tower and lych gate repair fundraiser last year. The Church of England will not offer grants for repair to closed churchyards under the responsibility of the local authority.