Clapham Recreation Ground Trust
Clapham Recreation Ground Trust was established when, in 1930, Mrs Gwendolen Somerset (the great-grandmother of Mr Clem Somerset) conveyed the land to 5 ‘Grantees’ (equivalent to ‘Trustees’) for ‘the purposes of pleasure grounds’. There are now 4 Trustees, all residents of Clapham. There are no funds associated with the Trust.
The original Conveyance document (equivalent to a Trust Deed) is now held at West Sussex Records Office in Chichester.
The land is also registered as Open Green Space in the Clapham Neighbourhood Development Plan, which means that no additional development will be permitted.
The Trust becomes a Charity
In 2018 the Charity Commission was asked to give a formal view on whether or not the Trust is a charity. They concluded that it is (good news, as this means the land is protected as a recreation ground in perpetuity), but that it is too small to register and is therefore considered an ‘excepted charity’.
The Commission originally thought that the purpose of the Trust was not sufficiently clearly defined in the original Conveyance, and they therefore required the Trustees - after consultation - to apply for a formal process to adopt a clearer wording in modern language. The Trustees received a good number of responses to the consultation about the proposed new wording, and as a result they incorporated various changes before sending the formal application to the Charity Commission.
However, the Commission eventually decided that a new definition was not needed after all, although the proposed wording clearly did fall within the Trust's broader charitable purpose. The Trustees will therefore work within the new definition (shaped by the numerous responses to the consultation) for the foreseeable future.
This is what the definition says: “The purpose of the charity is to provide and maintain in good order a publicly accessible green space for recreational use for the benefit of the inhabitants of Clapham Parish.”
This means that the Trustees have been able to offer a 21-year lease to Clapham Parish Council for the whole of the Rec apart from the corner where the shop/café building stands (this corner is leased separately to Yvette Fisher, the owner of 'The Junction'). The lease to the Parish Council is at a 'peppercorn' rent, in return for the Parish Council taking over responsibility for insurance and maintenance. A formal application to the Charity Commission, allowing the lease, has been approved, and the lease was signed on 25th April 2019.
The lease makes it possible for the replacement children's playground to go ahead, as the Council takes on responsibility for insurance, maintenance and annual inspections. The Council has been successful in obtaining funding for the purchase and installation of play equipment, as well as an 'adult gym' and wildlife area. Excellent progress is being made on this, and most of the equipment has now been, or soon will be, installed. The fence and gates are in place, and a disabled-access path from The Street is due to be laid.
Lease from CRGT to Clapham Parish Council
The Trustees have also granted an interim lease (a 'Tenancy at Will') to Yvette Fisher, the new owner of the shop/cafe buildings. This will give Yvette time to establish whether the business is likely to be viable going forward.
CRG Trustees, firstname.lastname@example.org