In short, the Scheme as drafted and the proposals negotiated by the Trustee for the future use of the Charity’s property "cannot be said to be a more suitable and effective use of the property than the original purposes and create a significant risk to the trust property".
Details in the report set out a number of comments o the proposed scheme, and what would be needed to make it acceptable. These are set out below.
- no consideration has been given as to whether they are the best that can be obtained for the Charity
- the trustee body consists entirely of members of the Council and is inherently conflicted
- it would be the operator of the hotel who decides who can hire the facilities - not the Trustee
- the categories entitled to use the Hall would potentially preclude some categories of local users
- the Trustee has no realistic way of enforcing the covenant
- the income from letting the Victoria Hall will go to the private company
- a refurbished Victoria Hall may provide function room facilities appropriate to a boutique hotel but not necessarily be the most suitable type of venue for modern recreational and leisure time use.
In relation to the proposed land swap of the Queens Hall for the Princes Hall, the report noted that
- there was no assessment of which of the Halls provides the type of facility and space that best meets the needs of the public for recreational and leisure time occupation
- the Charity is potentially losing out in terms of the premium that it will receive as a result of the swap of Halls, which is being made for the Council’s convenience as a result of the deal it negotiated
- there is disagreement on the extent of the Trust property. This is particularly important since the premium for the disposal of the Town Hall is to be apportioned between the Council and the Trust on the basis of floor area
- the timing means that that the Charity will receive a reduced premium and rent from what it might have been entitled to if the swap had not taken place.
The reviewer concluded that, while there are grounds for agreeing that the Trustees could dispose of the property, the scheme as drafted is not a suitable and effective use of the charity’s property and would have to be revised if it is to proceed. Among the changes that would be needed are
- consideration should be given to how the money earned from the deal would be distributed to the charity
- benefits provided by the charity would have to be re-provided in the building or elsewhere
- the council should be clear how it planned to use money earned from the sale of the hall to benefit the charity
- the hotel operator is obliged to re-provide the current facilities
- a plan to settle any conflicts of interest that might arise should be outlined. There needs to be an arrangement whereby there are independent co-optees to form a quorum where the elected councillors have, or may have, a conflict of interest.