Preston Down Trust appeal to the charity tribunal postponed until January

The trust, a Plymouth Brethren congregation in Devon, appealed against the Charity Commission's refusal to grant it charitable status

Preston Down Trust
Preston Down Trust

The Preston Down Trust has delayed its appeal to the charity tribunal to allow discussions with the Charity Commission to continue.

The trust, a Devon-based Plymouth Brethren congregation, appealed to the tribunal last year after the commission refused it charitable status. The commission said it was not satisfied that it 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. In May, the hearing was put on hold again for a further four months, until 1 September.

After an appeal from the trust, the appeal has been postponed again, until 6 January 2014.

A spokesman for the trust said the tribunal hearing had previously been delayed to allow discussions with the commission on whether an alternative to the tribunal process could be found.

"The content of that dialogue is confidential, but the discussions have not resulted in a resolution and the tribunal deadline has once again been extended to give both sides an opportunity for those discussions to continue," the spokesman said.

"It is now expected that the dialogue will reach a conclusion by the end of December 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 6 January 2014."

A spokeswoman for the commission said that the stay would allow confidential talks between itself and the trust to continue. "As the discussions are confidential, we cannot comment any further at this stage," she said.

The commission has also revealed that it plans to meet the trustees of the Grace Trust, a charity that has links to the Brethren, after receiving enquiries about its activities.

According to the commission’s website, the Grace Trust had an income of more than £73m in 2011/12 and two corporate trustees, Scribefort Ltd and Aller Brook Ltd.

A statement from the commission said: "Our concerns about the charity relate to the unusual corporate structure of the organisation, whereby the charity has two corporate trustees. We are looking at whether this raises any issues in terms of the processes for decision-making within the charity."

In a statement, the charity said: "The Grace Trust welcomes the opportunity to engage with the commission as it seeks to put into place best practice in the conduct of its affairs, and looks forward to continuing this dialogue with the commission".

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