Appeal lodged over use of charity land in Romsey as car park

Local resident accuses Charity Commission and Test Valley Borough Council of unfairness and secrecy

Romsey Abbey
Romsey Abbey

A resident of Romsey in Hampshire has appealed to the charity tribunal against an apparent offer by the Charity Commission to let the town's historic abbey continue using charity land as a car park.

Romsey Public Walk and Pleasure Ground, by the west front of the abbey, was bought by townspeople in 1826, but evidence that it was intended to be held in trust by the council resurfaced only in the 1990s.

The resident, Geoffrey Morris, told Third Sector that after the discovery the commission ordered Test Valley Borough Council to register the land as charitable. But Romsey Abbey Parochial Church Council disputed ownership of some sections of the land, leading to years of legal action.

Morris said councillors intervened in 2008, instructing the council's legal department to reach a settlement with the church council so that the land could still be used for parking.

The council asked the commission to grant the church a legal order, known as an easement. Morris said his appeal was against the commission's intention to grant the easement.

He said he was contacted by the commission soon after the appeal was lodged and encouraged to use the regulator's internal appeals process instead. He pursued both routes.

A spokeswoman for the commission said the regulator did not believe it had made a decision, direction or order that could be appealed against.

"The whole thing is grossly unfair," Morris said. "The council and commission have been in secret session. They are doing something for the church to the disadvantage of the people of Romsey, the charity's beneficiaries."

He said the land should be restored to its historic condition as a garden. Romsey Abbey PCC declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Test Valley Borough Council said legal action was continuing. "The council is trying to reach a settlement and is involving the commission in this," she said.


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