Regulator faces charity tribunal case over town hall row

A community group has opposed a scheme produced by the Charity Commission that would enable the sale of Victoria Hall to developers

Victoria Hall (Photograph: Roger Green)
Victoria Hall (Photograph: Roger Green)

A group of residents is taking the Charity Commission to the charity tribunal over its support for a local authority’s decision to turn a charitable venue into a luxury hotel.

The Ealing Council in west London entered into an agreement with a developer in July 2016 to sell off the town hall on a 250-year lease.

The plans include Victoria Hall, which accounts for more than 20 per cent of the property and belongs to the charitable Victoria Hall Trust, which has the council as its sole trustee.

The campaign group Friends of Victoria Hall said that in 2019, the commission published a draft scheme that would change the rules of the trust to allow the sale, including Victoria Hall, to go through.

A review of the scheme published last year added new conditions to the sale of Victoria Hall but it was still allowed to proceed.

FOVH said the trust was set up in 1893 to run the venue for the benefit of the local community that paid for it.

The group hopes its appeal at the charity tribunal will prevent the commission from allowing the council to change the rules of the trust to allow the sale.

A crowdfunding appeal to support the action has already raised more than £22,000 of its £35,000 target.

Roger Green, chair of FOVH, said: “The commission just hasn’t listened to the people of Ealing.

“It ignored hundreds of complaints from local people and over 4,000 signatures on two petitions. We’re now into the sixth year of this sorry saga.

“If the council had done its homework at the start it would have discovered it didn’t own Victoria Hall and might have come up with a better idea for the town hall site than another hotel.

“It has already spent most of the £2.5m it was being offered for the 250-year lease.”

Green described the plans as “theft” and a “blatant injustice” and said Victoria Hall had hosted gatherings of every kind for more than a century.

“All of this is now under threat from Ealing Council and the Charity Commission’s craven acceptance of its cynical attempts to get its hands on the Victoria Hall,” he added.

A spokesperson for the Charity Commission said: “We are aware of the appeal by the Friends of Victoria Hall against a scheme made by the commission under the Charities Act 2011.

“This matter will now go to the charity tribunal for consideration. In order not to prejudice the outcome of the tribunal, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

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