Charity Commission to hear residents' complaint against Test Valley Borough Council

They claim the council misinformed the commission

Two Hampshire residents whose charity tribunal case was struck out earlier this year have made a formal complaint to the Charity Commission about the behaviour of their local council.

Test Valley Borough Council is the sole trustee of Romsey Public Walk and Pleasure Ground, which is a small area of land next to Romsey Abbey. Local residents Geoffrey Morris and Edward Mason complained to the tribunal in March about the commission's offer to grant the council a legal permit called an easement, which would allow the abbey to continue using part of the charitable land as a car park.

The case was dismissed last month after the tribunal ruled it did not have jurisdiction in a case of this kind.

But the two residents have accepted the offer of an internal decision review by the commission and have submitted a formal complaint to it about the council's conduct as trustee.

Among their allegations is a claim that the council led the regulator to believe that the easement was the only way to protect the charity's assets because the church would otherwise have a good chance of claiming ownership of the land on the grounds that it had been using it for many years.

The council strongly rejected the allegations. It said claims that it misinformed the commission were completely untrue, and the issue had been considered in detail by the commission's lawyers, the Treasury Solicitor and the Attorney General, who have all been involved in the case.

It also rejected claims that it wanted to make money out of the charity and denied it had spent £25,000 that it received from the church in 2007 for access to a new vicarage on the other side of the land.

"The money was paid into a separate account and can be used only in accordance with the charities legislation," a spokeswoman for Test Valley Borough Council said.

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