Charity Commission
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Regulator opens inquiry into Kent-based horse charity

Inquiry to look into property held by National Equine Training Trust.

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into the National Equine Training Trust (charity 1051450) after discovering that the charity, which was previously removed from the Register of Charities, still owns a property in Sevenoaks.

The charity was presumed to be inactive and removed from the Register of Charities in 2013 because the trustees had not filed accounts for a number of years. However, it has now emerged that the charity owns the Gwendoline Walker Donkey Centre in Windmill Hill, 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 are sadly 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 opened a statutory inquiry into the charity on 2 April 2020. The inquiry is examining:

  • whether the charity has continued to operate since it was removed from the Register of Charities in 2013;
  • if the charity has trustees and if so, whether they are able to protect the donkey centre;
  • 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. Reports of previous inquiries are available on GOV.UK.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Prior to removing inactive charities from the register, the Commission issues reminders to trustees and encourages them to get in contact if the charity is still operational.
  2. The opening of an inquiry is not a finding of wrongdoing.

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