Further to the article in our Autumn newsletter about the possible housing development on some of the Churchfields allotments land, Weybridge Charity has sent us a statement which is published below.
Charity’s Plans to help needy in Weybridge and Revitalise the Churchfields Allotments
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