Charity Commission To Investigate Wimbledon & Putney Commons Conservators

Statutory inquiry over potential financial loss involving access rights

The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, has opened a statutory inquiry into Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators.

The charity manages Wimbledon and Putney Commons and aims to preserve the commons as open spaces for purposes including exercise and recreation.

In a statement yesterday (19 September) Simon Lee the Chief Executive of Wimbledon and Putney Commons confirmed that the: "Conservators will of course afford the Commission their full cooperation during this investigation. They are currently working with the advice of Charles Russell Speechlys LLP to appoint an appropriate valuer to undertake the retrospective valuation".

The Commission opened a regulatory compliance case into the Charity in September 2015 to examine concerns regarding a potential financial loss to the charity due to the granting of an easement over part of the charity’s land in August 2014. The Commission met with the charity’s trustees in October 2015 and issued an action plan to the charity (registered charity number 303167).

The Commission has serious concerns that the trustees have not yet complied with the action plan issued in October 2015. The commission is also concerned that the trustees may not be able to agree a way forward due to an ongoing dispute within the trustee body and that potential conflicts of interest may impact some trustees’ decision making.

The Commission has further concerns that there may be a continuing risk to charitable property. As a result the commission opened a statutory inquiry on 18 August.

A spokesperson for Friends of Putney Common said: "FofPC welcomes the inquiry announced today by the Charity Commission".

The inquiry will examine the administration, governance and management of the charity by the trustees with specific regard to the issues arising from the granting of the easement in August 2014 for access rights over Putney Lower Common.

The Commission has also issued an Order under section 84 of the Charities Act 2011 directing the trustees to appoint and instruct a surveyor to carry out a valuation of the easement.
It is the Commission’s policy, after it has concluded an inquiry, to publish a report detailing what issues the inquiry looked at, what actions were undertaken as part of the inquiry and what the outcomes were.

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September 20, 2016