Watchdog probes inactive animal charity

The Charity Commission has launched an inquiry into an inactive charity for horses, after discovering it still owns a property which is now at financial risk

The National Equine Training Trust was and removed from the Register of Charities in 2013 because the trustees had not filed accounts for a number of years, and enquiries indicated it was inactive.

However, it has now emerged that the charity owns the Gwendoline Walker Donkey Centre in Windmill Hill, near Sevenoaks in Kent, which a neighbour claims to have been using for the last 10 years.

The regulator, which has a role in protecting charitable assets for use by charities, has been named as a respondent in an adverse possession claim by the neighbour to the court.

As the charity is unincorporated it is unable to hold land in its own name, but land can be vested in the names of trustees. Documents lodged with the Land Registry show that the donkey centre is currently vested in the names of two individuals - both are known to have been trustees, but now deceased.

Nobody has been representing the interests of the charity in the adverse possession proceedings, and the Commission is concerned by this significant risk to charity property.

Due to its regulatory concerns, the regulator has opened a statutory inquiry, which will look at whether the charity has continued to operate since it was removed from the register in 2013.

The watchdog will also investigate whether the charity has trustees and if so, whether they are able to protect the donkey centre and whether there is a need for the Commission to protect the charity’s assets and address the governance vacuum, should there be no trustees, to place the charity onto a proper footing.

The inquiry is attempting to contact other former trustees but has not yet been successful. It encourages anyone with information to come forward.

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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