Charity Commission Withholds Approval for Ealing Town Hall Sell-off Plan

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FoVH protesters outside the Victoria Hall

CENTRAL EALING: The Charity Commission has rejected Ealing Council’s application to take control of the assets of the charitable Trust that owns the Victoria Hall. This blocks the Council’s current proposals for selling the Hall, along with other Trust property and the rest of Ealing Town Hall so that the site can be turned into a boutique hotel.

The Victoria Hall was built behind Ealing Town Hall with money raised through a Victorian crowdfunding campaign. It is owned by a charitable Trust that was set up in 1893 to provide a venue for the community and ‘Meetings, Entertainments, Balls, Bazaars, and other Gatherings whether Social or Political.’

Following a public consultation that closed on 7 January, the Charity Commission published its verdict on 3 April. In its 13-page ruling, the Commission agreed with many of the serious criticisms that the Friends of the Victoria Hall (FoVH) made of the Council’s Scheme.

A Reviewer appointed by the Commission states in the Charity Commission Report: ‘I cannot see that any consideration has been given as to whether the proposals are the best that can be obtained by the Charity.’

The Reviewer went on to say that the Scheme proposed by the Council for the future of the charity applying to the Victoria and the Prince’s Halls could only go ahead on the following conditions:

  1. The charity’s property has to be properly identified (which so far has not been done) and consideration should be given to how some of the money earned by the Council from the deal with Mastcraft (the hotel operator) would be distributed to the charity;
  2. The benefits provided by the charity to the public would have to be re-provided in the building or elsewhere;
  3. In the light of this, the Commission would need clarification on how the Council proposed to use the money earned from the sale of the Halls to benefit the charity;
  4. Steps needed to be taken to ensure that the hotel operator was obliged to re-provide the current facilities, as well as indications on how this would be monitored and enforced;
  5. Procedures would need to be put in place to manage any conflicts of interest that might arise between the charity and the Council.

The Reviewer concluded that if the Council wished to proceed it would need to present a revised case ‘that demonstrates that the proposals now amount to a more suitable and effective use for the charity’s property.’

Roger Green, Chair of the Friends of the Victoria Hall (FoVH) said: ‘ In the next few weeks FoVH will be studying the details of the Charity Commission decision before reaching a considered view on the options now available to us. We may need to seek legal advice on the next steps, in which case we are likely to have to raise more money to fund this.’