Charities and community organisations – closing down vs other options: Part 2 - Ashwellthorpe

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Ashwellthorpe: a tale of two village halls

It started with a Section 106. That’s a legal agreement between developers and local planning authorities, aimed at mitigating the impact of new house building on the local community and infrastructure. It usually comprises a requirement to provide facilities that will make a positive contribution to the area and community, affordable housing being a prime example.

At Ashwellthorpe it’s taken the form of a brand-new, additional village hall. And what ensued is a fine example of one charity linking to another, as the trustees of the old village hall altruistically decided to hand over provision of social and recreational facilities in the community to the new village hall committee.

The old building had seen sterling service for many years, but was smaller, and clearly the community didn’t need two buildings offering the same facilities in competition.  The transition was, however, not straightforward.

Brian Mondin, Treasurer and Gordon Robbie, fellow Trustee of the original Ashwellthorpe Village Hall, take up the story.

“We already had an agreement with the local playgroup that they could have permanent use of the hall for their regular sessions, so the old hall will remain in use in some form” explains Brian.  “The new proposal was for all activities – except for the playgroup – to move to the new hall. In pursuit of due diligence and following legal requirements, a plan evolved to amalgamate the old village hall – which is an unincorporated trust – with the new village hall, which is a Community Interest Organisation (CIO).”

Because the original village hall property is a permanent endowment the two organisations could not simply merge, without removing the original trusts on which the property was held.  To meet this challenge the Charity Commission suggested that the two charities become linked charities. ‘Link’ is the key word here. The outcome, which works for both parties, is that the assets are separate legal entities, but the new village hall committee will be sole trustee for the original village hall trust.

Getting the right advice

The trustees have been working closely with CAN Community Development & Engagement Officer Clare Fiander, who commends the trustees’ professional approach and their attention to due diligence.

“Clare’s expertise and detailed knowledge of the complex processes involved in pursuing our objective to the Charity Commission’s approval is greatly appreciated. She helped us liaise with the Commission and define our objectives, enabling us to steer through the requirements in changing our status.” says Brian, adding:

“There were three important points that we needed to convey to the Charity Commission.

  • That we understood the significance and context of linking charities
  • The declaration that the trustees were applying for a Scheme to link the charities
  • That the trustees understood and approved the text of the draft Scheme already drawn up by the Commission."

Fellow trustee Gordon says:

“The Parish Council instigated the idea of joining the two facilities, and working with CAN has proved to be a substantial cost-saver in terms of professional advice, and a boon in terms of benefiting from detailed knowledge of the processes involved.”

Clare endorses the professional approach of the trustees. 

“They’ve really taken the time to consider what’s best for the charity to ensure it’s sustainable, and that it can carry out its purposes for the benefit of the community.  They’ve made tough decisions, and really investigated how this affects the future of the charity, rather than investing a lot of energy into persevering – which would have been harder and possibly reduced the ability to meet their purposes.  Brian and Gordon and the Committee have been thorough in looking at the implications and ensuring they understand what they as a Committee are doing.”

Essentially, in linking the charities the Old Village Hall committee have effectively replaced their entire committee with the corporate entity of the CIO.

The final word goes to Gordon: 

“The only trustee of the old village hall will be the new village hall.”

As you can see, changes of charitable status can be complex and not a little daunting!  For advice and support, contact our Community Development Officers on 01362 698216 or email office@commnityactionnorfolk.org.uk