Proposed Amendments to Scheme and Lease to Alzheimer’s Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   The Orchard

 

 

In 1937, Miss Agar bequested 'The Orchard' to Chertsey Urban District Council for use as a library, an art gallery, a museum and ‘kindred purposes’, protected as a separate Charity, No 311868. As successors to CUDC, RBC have acted as Corporate Trustees and for the last few years have used the building for Chertsey Day Centre. To save money, RBC have now decided to close the Day Centre but Chertsey residents may attend the Addlestone or Egham Day Centres. RBC are proposing to amend the Charity Scheme and are intending to lease the whole of the ground floor of the building to the Alzheimer’s Society for five years for £7,300 pa. In addition, they proposed to continue to lease an upstairs office to Age Concern, and Chertsey Museum will continue to use two rooms for storage as previously.
RBC propose to amend the trust scheme by widening the area of benefit to Runnymede rather than Chertsey, and the governing document will take effect with the following words inserted at the end of Clause 2 of the 1937 Deed, where Clause 2 includes the use for library, an art gallery, a museum and ‘kindred purposes’.
The new words to be added are:
‘If in the opinion of the Council, all or any part of the said property cannot effectively be used for the said purpose, then the Council may use or permit it to be used for one or both of the following:
1) for relief of elderly people who are in need of the provision of a Day Centre;
2) for such charitable purposes for the general benefit of inhabitants of the area of benefit.’

The Chertsey Society recognised that it would be sensible to amend The Orchard scheme to regularise its use as a Day Centre or similar activity, since it would be of benefit to Chertsey residents and the building could continue to be used simultaneously by other local groups that complied with Miss Agar’s intentions. However, at the RBC Community Services Committee on 16th June 2011, when the Amendments to the Scheme and the Lease to Alzheimer’s Society were approved (not unanimously), the Chairman, Mr P Waddell, in response to a question from one of the Committee Members responded categorically that other groups could not use the building, even when the Alzheimer’s clients were not present, i.e. in the evening or at weekends, because of the ‘special soft furnishing’ needed for the Alzheimer’s clients. Frankly, we are completely baffled by this statement, particularly since the organisers of the Alzheimer’s Group do not object to other organisations using the building when they are not present.
A meeting was subsequently held on 28th July 2011, with the new Leader of RBC, Cllr P Roberts, to discuss the matter further and see if a compromise could be reached. Messrs Peter Anderson (RAA), Peter Poole (former Mayor) and Malcolm Loveday (Chertsey Society) were present and we await the outcome of the discussions.   
 
The Society does not object in principle to the Scope of the Charity Scheme being widened, provided the following conditions are incorporated into the scheme:
a) the original uses as proposed by Miss Agar are retained, i.e. for use as a library, an art gallery, a museum and ‘kindred purposes’;
b) any additional permitted use be for community based organisations and should not exclude, or evict, the existing users which comply with the original bequest, e.g. The Museum or the U3A, and any organisations who do not fulfil the criteria laid down in Miss Agar’s bequest should pay a fair and reasonable rent to The Orchard Trust;
c) a properly constituted Board of Trustees be appointed with a clearly stated mechanism for their appointment, to meet at least twice a year and comprising of independent trustees as well as trustees nominated by RBC (and the latter should not be in the majority) and with no more than two trustees affiliated to the organizations who are users of the building;
alternatively, if the RBC remains as the corporative Trustee then a Management Board be established with independent representatives and held in public;
d) the Trust maintains, and makes available to interested parties and residents, proper accounts.

The Society recognizes that over the years RBC has expended considerable sums on maintaining the building; however, at the same time they have used it as a Day Centre but they do not appear to have paid the Trust a fair and reasonable rent for its use. Likewise the cottage at the front of The Orchard has been rented out at social housing rates, i.e. approximately one third of the fair market price. Examination of the detailed accounts prepared by RBC clearly indicate that they have subsumed the costs of providing the Day Centre into The Orchard accounts; this practice is questionable and not in accordance with the original charity trust deed.   

Meanwhile The Chertsey Society, along with other local residents, have formally lodged objections with The Charity Commission who intend to publish their decision by 14th September 2011.   
The Orchard is turning into a saga rather like Abbey Barn which was left to the people of Chertsey with SCC acting a Corporate Trustees. It was eventually passed on to The Acorn Children Theatre Trust who sold the building at auction for £267K in 1987 and took the money to run the  Quercus Theatre Company who continued to operate in Berkshire until 2005 when it was wound up and removed from the Charities Register. Abbey Barn is now an office building currently occupied by Toshiba.

 

 

 

 

 

   The Abbey Barn

   Drawing by Victor Spink