Holding a strong opinion is understandable and everyone's right to express in a democracy, but disseminating information that is known to be incorrect with the intention of misleading others is less forgivable.
To put the record straight, Weybridge Charity has already made it very clear to all allotment tenants and neighbouring residents of the 'Triangle', that it has a duty to help the needy in Weybridge. That is the Charity's sole objective and the reason for the development proposal. Helping those in hardship is not a secondary objective to the provision of allotments; it is the main requirement of the Charity. Churchfields allotments are maintained as an 'investment permanent endowment', and to put the development proposal into perspective, it represents just over 5% of the under-utilised allotment land.
Allotment gardening is therefore not the Charity's main 'raison d'etre'. The fact that the provision of Churchfields no longer serves to provide sustenance to the needy of Weybridge was recognized by the Charity Commission many decades ago. Although it remains a very important facility which the Charity wants to continue to nurture and encourage, it has to acknowledge that the users of it are no longer restricted to those in hardship who are required to be the target recipients of the Charity's aid and support.
The reference in the leaflet to possible traffic congestion is very misleading and overstated. The development proposal is for just 10 housing units. The long-term impact will be minimal.
Regarding the protection of indigenous wildlife, the Charity has already commissioned and obtained three comprehensive ecological studies of the area by the Surrey Wildlife Trust and all of their recommendations will be enshrined in the planning proposal. Enhancement of ecological habitats on the remainder of Churchfields is already incorporated in the planned improvement programme. Protecting and encouraging wildlife has always been a major concern of the trustees and every step will be taken to ensure minimal disruption and their long-term safety.
The leaflet's assertion that the Charity is mandated to run the allotments but has total discretion over making any charitable disbursements is, of course, complete nonsense and a deliberate distortion of the truth. The Charity wants do both, but it needs to redress the balance between the two in order to support the growing need for help to alleviate hardship in the local community.
Fortunately for the community, the trustees understand that it is not a sound policy to decant capital investments in order to finance recurring annual revenue needs as the leaflet seems to suggest (re - how much money does the charity have in reserves?). Although the Charity now spends over £40k a year on grants for the needy, greater resources are required to meet increasing demand. There is a pressing need for a new, substantial, source of annual income, which only a development of this type may achieve. Contrary to the assertion in the leaflet, the Charity does plan ahead and this development proposal is critical to it being able to fulfil its role effectively in the future.
Incidentally, it is also incorrect to talk about selling the Triangle. The only part to be sold will be the land on which the semi-detached houses are built. The flats will be built by the developer (at nil cost to the Charity) for the Charity to retain and let.
The Charity is not ‘in disarray’ (who runs the charity?) at all. It never has been. The high quality of its trustees ensures that the Charity is run both efficiently and effectively. It’s a pity that the author never took the trouble to assess the effectiveness of the Charity by talking to individuals in the town and the voluntary agencies (e.g. Weybridge Children’s Centre, C.A.B, Paragon Housing etc.) which the Charity supports.
Re. the leaflet’s next para. of misinformation, and as notified many times before, the Charity’s proposal to spend more than £100k on the rest of Churchfields, does not include any spending on the Triangle at all. It does include building a much needed, purpose built toilet however, and as our letter to all tenants and neighbouring residents stated, their help with the other planned improvements would be very warmly welcomed.
There is little point in any organisation publicising plans before they have been agreed, but the Charity has ensured that all the allotment tenants and neighbouring householders were advised of the development proposals as soon as the trustees had made their decision on the scheme. The leaflet does of course ignore that fact in favour of a general gibe about ‘no consultation’.
Howard Turner C.P.F.A.
Treasurer and Clerk to the Weybridge Charity
This article from the Chairman is in response to an article in the recent Newsletter of the Weybridge Society from the Curzon Road Residents Association.
The Weybridge Charity has a primary duty to support the needy in Weybridge. It is not a community body but is governed by a constitution which it must abide by. It provides significant assistance in the form of cash grants, emergency support and specific help, for example winter heating costs. Our customers currently number just over 300 of the 800 families that are known to be on housing support.
The charity holds investments of £2.175 million and holds and manages the freehold of the area of approx 9.5 acres known as Churchfields. This area is let as allotment plots. The original purpose of holding the land for allotments was enable the poor to be able to sustain themselves. This reason has vanished and the charity’s scheme now accepts that it can be held and used for recreational use as allotments.
The charity pays for the maintenance of the site, provision of the toilet and water supply. The allotment rents help to finance these costs but contribute nothing towards the Charity object of helping those in financial need in the community.
The management of the site is challenging and the use of the 220 or so plots vary in effectiveness.
It is apparent that the site is declining in standard and a significant number of plots are either vacant or underused. There are incursions of shrubs and trees. Plot boundaries are blurred and access is obstructed. The trustees see the need to spend significant amounts of money to rectify the shortcomings and make improvements. This will secure the site's future in its current use. The sum involved is in excess of £100,000.
What will change and is expected to increase in the future is number of families in need in Weybridge. Of those we already know, the Charity only helps 37%. The trustees consider it essential that they both increase the amount of aid that they are able to give their recipients and widen its distribution to families and individuals who have not, to date, applied to the charity for help.
The trustees have agreed to propose a planning application to allow a small part of the site approx 0.5 acres to be sold for housing (namely two pairs of semi detached houses and a building with six one bedroom flats). It is proposed to retain the block of flats as a freehold investment which will provide rental income.
The exact nature of the proposals has not been finalised. But the capital sum that the sale will produce will be added to the charity’s existing investments and together with the net rental income will more than double the income of the charity and increase the grant aiding capability threefold. Some £100,000 of the capital sum will be reserved for improvements to the remaining 9 acres.
The charity will not sell any of the remaining land in the foreseeable future.
The planning application will require the charity to provide approximately £500,000 for the provision, elsewhere, of affordable housing. Many studies have been carried on the nature issues involved in the proposed development as required by the council.
The charity is supported by the Charity Commission. It abides by all its governance, reporting and management requirements. All the trustees are unpaid and will receive no financial benefit from the proposed development.
The charity welcomes the offers from neighbouring householders of financial and administrative support to the charity. However it does not see this as replacing the proposal in the scale necessary but as an addition.
We hope that both the allotment tenants and neighbouring residents may understand the reasons for this development proposal. It will allow the Charity to provide far more effective help to the needy in the community whilst preserving the value of its assets in real terms and enabling a major programme of improvements to be commissioned for the remainder of Churchfields to ensure that it may remain in demand as allotment land for the foreseeable future.
September 27th 2018