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Category Archives: Charity Commission

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Residents groups in West Byfleet have made an official complaint to the Charity Commission about Woking council’s “unlawful” plan to sell off part of West Byfleet recreation ground to a pub group. At the same time a descendant of the land’s original benefactor has backed residents protesting about the plans, saying that they would “certainly fly in the face of Frederick Stoop’s vision for West Byfleet. The Stoop family feel very strongly that this space should be used for the benefit of all residents in West Byfleet as a recreation area for adults and children alike.”

A joint press release from West Byfleet Neighbourhood Forum and the Residents Association outlines in full their submission to the Charity Commission. They claim that Woking council has failed “to properly fulfil its legal duties as sole trustee of the Recreation Ground Charity” and has also failed to “address the conflict of interest in it being the trustee of the Recreation Ground Charity and the planning authority which will ultimately decide the planning decision”.

Its full press release says:

  • On 2nd August we submitted a complaint to the Charity Commission on behalf of the stakeholders of West Byfleet Recreation Ground about the failure of Woking Borough Council to properly fulfil its legal duties as sole trustee of the Recreation Ground Charity.
  • On 16 and 18 July 2018 a group of stakeholders wrote to WBC about our concerns regarding their conduct and their management.
  • The Recreation Ground Charity was established in 1913 after a piece of land (now known as West Byfleet Recreation Ground) was gifted to the charity to be used “as and for a Recreation Ground for the inhabitants of the Parish of Byfleet”.
  • The Recreation Ground Charity (charity number 304985) still exists today. The trustee, following several local government reorganisations over the last century, is now Woking Borough Council.
  • For a body to be a charity, it must be independent. It must exist and operate solely for charitable purposes and not as a means of carrying out the policies or directions of a local authority.
  • The Councillors’ Guide; to a council’s role as charity trustee produced by the Charity Commission and Local Government Association sets out how a local authority can manage charitable trusts safely including keeping management of the charity separate from the business of the local authority, keeping the finances of the charity separate from those of the council and producing annual statements of accounts under charity law.
  • On 28 June 2018 at a meeting of WBC Executive the Leader of the Council announced that WBC Executive had agreed on 2 February 2017 to sell part of the Recreation Ground to Marstons’ plc once Marston’s plc have obtained planning permission for a pub restaurant. We believe this to be unlawful.
  • We do not believe that the sale of any part of West Byfleet Recreation Ground can be in the best interests of the Recreation Ground Charity as the use to which the land would be put by the proposed buyer is not consistent with the purpose of the charity.
  • Woking Borough Council and its Executive have failed to address the conflict of interest in it being the trustee of the Recreation Ground Charity and the planning authority which will ultimately decide the planning decision about allowing a pub on the Recreation Ground.
  • Woking Borough Council has not submitted any annual returns for the Recreation Ground Charity in the last five years and states in its accounts that the charity has no income or expenditure.”

 

Meanwhile Michael Stoop, in a message to residents, has said:  “I would just like to add further to the objections you have already received from various members of the Stoop family that this land was bequeathed to the residents of West Byfleet to provide the village an outside sanctuary for future generations to enjoy.

“To allow …  Marston’s to build a pub on part of this land, would certainly fly in the face of Frederick Stoop’s vision for West Byfleet. The Stoop family feel very strongly that this space should be used for the benefit of all residents in West Byfleet as a recreation area for adults and children alike. I would certainly like to show my own grandchildren the beauty of West Byfleet’s recreational area without the eyesore of another unwanted pub!

“I hope with the support of the entire Stoop family and the local residents, this ‘hare-brained scheme’ is dismissed by the local planners.”