Charity Tribunal 'powerless' to halt Tesco development

Preliminary ruling dashes Dartford residents' hopes of forcing council to reacquire land

The Charity Tribunal has admitted it has no power to overturn Dartford Borough Council's sale of a parcel of charitable land in the town's Central Park to a property developer.

Residents Derek Maidment and Lennox Ryan appealed to the tribunal in April after the Charity Commission decided that the sale of a small section of the Kidd Legacy land, of which the council is the sole trustee, had breached charity law but had been done in good faith.

The sale was in the best interests of the charity because the proceeds would pay for the upkeep of the rest of the land, the commission concluded.

The tribunal has since received a petition from Dartford residents calling for it to quash the sale. The residents object to proposals for the land to be incorporated into a major development that will include a large Tesco store.

But a preliminary ruling setting out the legal issues to be decided at the full hearing says the tribunal's statutory powers do not extend to setting aside land transactions.

It also dismisses a call from the appellants, who are not legally represented, for the tribunal to order the council to use its compulsory purchase powers to reacquire the charitable land.

It says that even if the tribunal had the power to order the land to be returned to the charity, the council would not be able to use its compulsory purchase powers in its role as a charity trustee.

The final hearing, set for the end of October, will debate a number of issues, including whether the sale of the land breached the terms of Charles Newman Kidd's 1903 legacy, which stated that the land should be used "in perpetuity as a public recreation ground and for no other purpose whatsoever".

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