Brethren charity tribunal appeal put on hold until September

The Preston Down Trust will continue discussions with the Charity Commission as the deadline is extended by four months

Preston Down Trust meeting hall
Preston Down Trust meeting hall

The appeal to the charity tribunal by the Preston Down Trust has been put on hold for a further four months.

The trust, a Plymouth Brethren congregation in Devon, originally appealed to the charity tribunal last year against the Charity Commission’s refusal to grant it charitable status. The regulator was not satisfied the trust had been established for the advancement of religion for public benefit.

In February, the trust was granted permission by the tribunal to put the proceedings on hold until 1 May. The hearing was originally scheduled for the end of March.  

At the time, the commission said that trust representatives had told it the tribunal appeal process would incur significant legal costs and asked it to find an alternative. The commission then began discussions with the trust.

After a further request by the trust to the charity tribunal on 1 May, proceedings have been put on hold until 1 September.  

A spokeswoman for the commission said that "confidential without-prejudice discussions" were continuing between the trust and the commission. But she said the commission was unable to register the trust if it did not meet the legal requirements for registration. If the discussion did not result in the commission agreeing to register the trust, she said, it could continue with its tribunal case.

"The commission cannot register any organisation as a charity if it does not wholly fulfil the legal requirements for registration," she said. "Despite the extended stay, if it is not possible to deal with the issue this way, the trust cannot be registered, and the trustees will have the option of lifting the stay of legal proceedings and continuing with the tribunal process."

In a statement, the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church said that discussions with the commission had been constructive and the extension to the deadline would allow them to continue.

The statement said: "It is now expected that the dialogue will reach a conclusion by the end of August and, to that end, the trustees have, with the consent and cooperation of the commission, applied for and been granted an additional stay in proceedings until 1 September.

"The effect of this is that no further steps will be taken in the proceedings until at least 1 September."

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