Bath Rec trustees plan to appeal against charity tribunal decision

The tribunal ruled that the trustees' scheme to resolve a long-standing land dispute required substantial amendment, but the charity says the ruling contains errors of law

Bath Recreation Ground
Bath Recreation Ground

The trustees of charitable land used as the home of Bath Rugby Club will ask for permission to appeal last month’s charity tribunal decision because it restricts its access to financial resources and contains errors of law.

The tribunal ruled last month that a June 2013 scheme drawn up by trustees of the Bath Recreation Ground Trust and approved by the Charity Commission to resolve a long-running dispute over use of the land needed to be substantially amended.

The charity had suggested a land-swap deal, allowing Bath Rugby Club to use extra land in order to redevelop the ground in return for the club leasing the charity its former training ground on the city’s outskirts for public use.

The scheme was drawn up in order to resolve a breach of trust that the commission said took place in 2007 when the trust built a leisure centre on part of its land and granted a new 75-year lease to the rugby club, which has used part of the trust's land since 1894.

But the tribunal found last month that it was unlikely that the decision to give the rugby club substantial extra land could "be justifiable on the basis that such a grant is in furtherance of the objects of the charity". It said that the proposed land swap was "not the only, or the best, practical solution that the trustees should consider in deciding how to further the objects of the charity".

The charity said in a statement on Monday that the charity tribunal’s decision was "financially unhelpful to the trust" and contained errors in the law that was applied.

It said that it accepted and had already implemented some aspects of the tribunal’s decision, handed down on 27 March, around the make-up of its board of trustees.

David Dixon, deputy leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council and former chair of the trust, has been replaced as chair of the charity by Liz Bloor, in line with the tribunal’s recommendation that the trust should have only one representative of Bath and North East Somerset Council on its board, and that any such trustee could not be chair or deputy chair.

Dixon remains on the board as the sole council representative.

"We wish to have sufficient flexibility to effectively take forward the management of the recreation ground," said Bloor. "The new boundary put forward by the tribunal artificially restricting the scope of any future arrangements with Bath Rugby simply prevents us from having this flexibility and, in turn, limits the trust’s access to resources to invest in recreation for the whole community. In light of this we will be applying for leave to appeal the decision."

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: "We note the trustees’ published intention to appeal the tribunal’s decision. The tribunal has a procedure for considering whether to give permission to appeal. The permission stage does not involve the commission. The commission is actively reviewing developments but must await the tribunal’s decision to find out whether the trustees have permission to appeal and, if so, what issues will be considered on appeal."

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