Reverse their decision of 4th November 2014 to sell Victoria Park Lodge (former park keepers lodge) in Victoria Park, Finchley, London N3
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Victoria Park Recreation Ground (Victoria Park), including Victoria Park Lodge, is a Charitable Trust donated by the residents of Finchley over 100 years ago. It is collectively owned by the residents with London Borough of Barnet (Barnet Council) Councillors as Trustees. A park keeper lived with his family in The Lodge for many years, until the resident park keeper position was no more. For about 20 years it was used for emergency social housing. In 2009, Barnet Council's Cabinet Resources Committee resolved that the Victoria Park Lodge was surplus to the Council's requirements, that the occupiers be decanted and the Council's freehold interest in the property be offered for sale.
But when they went to sell The Lodge they found that it was part of Victoria Park which is a charitable trust.
So for nearly 5 years Barnet Council, as trustees, have left The Lodge empty. In that time they have neglected it. There were hedges growing around it which were kept trimmed but now these are tall. The hedge facing Long Lane, is now well over 3 meters so from the street The Lodge can only be seen by a small gap at the gate. There were squatters there for a while and it was also vandalised. After about two years Barnet Council secured The Lodge windows and door with screens.
Being so secluded there has been anti-social behaviour in the grounds. All Barnet Council did was place a notice stating they owned the grounds and a shed on the property and "the occupiers" were trespassing.
On the 4th November 2014 at the London Borough of Barnet Council meeting, the councillors, as trustees, voted by 32 to 31 to sell The Lodge. Since then they have marketed the property with Maunder Taylor, a local estate agent, to be sold by informal tender (by 26th February 2015) - cash buyers only! They already have a private buyer.
As The Lodge is part of a charitable trust, they are required to place a Public Notice in accordance with section 121 of the Charities Act 2011 for at least one month. This they did on 26th February and we have until the 30th March.
Typical Barnet Council, the notice was placed on a gate at knee height, on plain white paper and with sticky tape! As it rained it was gone within 48 hours and has not been replaced.
The Charity Commission states that "Trustees must always act in the best interests of their charity". The charity number is 4053515. Have Barnet Council, as trustees, acted in the best interest of Victoria Park Recreation Ground Trust? For 5 years they have left the property vacant, to encourage vandalism, squatters and anti-social behaviour. They have made no attempt to reduce such activity. Instead by not maintaining the grounds it has become a secluded area, so really encouraging anti-social behaviour. An empty property will also deteriorate.
For over five years, Barnet Council have only pursued selling the property to a private owner. A property that is part of a park. A property that was paid for by public subscription over 100 years ago. They claim that as they no longer have a park keeper, that the conveyance of 1898 does not allow anyone other than a park keeper to live in the property so they have to sell it. They claim that by selling it, they remove it from the trust, so a private owner will be able to live in it!
Then the Charity Commission requires any monies from the sale to be "ring fenced" for the benefit of the trust. So Barnet Council are going to use it for Victoria Park maintenance. But Victoria Park maintenance costs now come from the public realm department so all they will do is use the money from the sale instead. How will this benefit the charity?
Presently, in this area of the park, all private properties are at least across the road from the park. The sale will have a private property in what is now Victoria Park. This is right next to a playground and the entrance to the park for large vehicles. As it is a freehold sale this will permanently have a negative impact on Victoria Park.
By deciding to sell, how are the trustees acting in the best interests of Victoria Park? Clearly, they are not.
We want Barnet Council to reverse their decision to sell the Victoria Park Lodge. It is part of a public park and we object to any land contained within the present boundaries of the park being sold to a private buyer.
We need you to sign by 30th March. Thank you.
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