Complaint against the Will Woodlands Trust and the policies of the

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Complaint against the Will Woodlands Trust and the policies of the Powered By Docstoc
					                                                       Ken Wilkinson
                                                       55 Reedley Road
                                                       Bristol BS9 3TD
                                                       0117 9620455.
                                                       kwilkinson2000@hotmail.com
24/04/2008

Mr Darlow
Customer Service Manager
The Charity Commission
Liverpool

Dear Mr Darlow.

Complaints against Will Woodlands, registered charity number 1038274

I wish to make several complaints against Will Woodlands, a registered charity. Your
records will show that I have previously made complaints about this charity, which were
not upheld by the Charity Commission. (Heres page 2). I was not happy with the content
of the response and appealed. The Outreach panel, whose judgement is here reviewed
this. I contacted the Independent Assessor as there seemed to be a basic misreading of the
charitable documents. I did not pursue this as significant new information had come to
light.
Your office told me that the Commission’s process does allow me to make further
complaints in the light of this. I have indeed established several new facts.

I have listed the complaints below and the supporting documents are supported with
hyperlinks. These are located on my website www.flyubley.co.uk. This includes
photographs and video footage to better inform you of the background to each complaint.
In the text below, I have put outlines around the quoted policies from the Charity
Commission. If you have any problems accessing any of the files, please email me. In
addition there are video logs on Youtube, under the name of ‘anubleyelf’.

Many of the complaints refer to the National Trust as a standard of best practice. I would
welcome the National Trust policies being followed by the Will Woodlands Charity and
consider the National Trust’s public-spirited approach one to be lauded.

I must emphasize that these are all separate complaints, and I would appreciate the time
being spent to properly evaluate each one on a case-by-case basis.

Yours sincerely

Ken Wilkinson,

(representing 42 pilots, and many others, in the Campaign for the Resumption of Free
Flying at Ubley)




                                        Page 1 of 19
A series of Complaints to the Charity Commission against the Will Woodlands
Charity and the policies of the Trustees and their agent:

Trustees: Hugh Henshaw, Sir John James, Alastair McDonald.
Land agent is Alastair Martin, of Dreweatt Neate, Wells.



Background.

The sport of paragliding and hang gliding has taken place on the Hazel Manor Farm estate
in the Mendips since 1979. This is a silent sport, using no engines, and is recognized as a
very low impact sport by bodies such as the National Trust. For the last seven years pilots
of paragliders and hang gliders, lightweight foot launched aircraft, have attempted
negotiation with the owners, the Will Woodlands Charity. Now the Charity has not only
formally and totally banned pilots from practicing this environmentally sound sport, but
also banned members of the public from parts of the site.

Prior to this formal ban, pilots were refused access on the basis that there were;

       a. Health and Safety issues. This has been refuted by the HSE

       b. Conservation concerns. These run against the guidance for Charities from
       RR9 and there are no rare species of birds or other wildlife that need special
       protection.

As I have investigated this I have come across many other points where public benefit
rules seem to have been ignored, with access being restricted. Also the policies of the
agent, Alastair Martin have been it times evasive, disingenuous, and misleading. I feel he
has acted in a way that is not becoming of the representative of a Charity.

The complaints being brought are listed below.

The Introduction to the reply is as follows,

Dear Mr Wilkinson
Will Woodlands - Registered charity number 1038274
Thank you for your e-mail of 27 April attaching a letter dated 24 April, also for your e-mail
of 1 May and the DVD received on 2 May. I note that you are writing on behalf of the
Campaign for the Resumption of Free Flying at Ubley and so this letter may be taken as
a response to that also.

I have thoroughly considered your eighteen numbered complaints together with the
background information contained in the hyperlinks from your letter, your website
www.flyubley.co.uk and the “West Eye View” programme from 1998, “Where there’s a
Will” that you submitted on the DVD. While it is for the Commission to consider
complaints about charities as it sees fit, I have dealt with your 18 points of complaint
below under separate headings, following your numbering, for the sake of consistency.
Before I detail our views on these complaints, I make some general points about our role
generally and in handling this complaint.



                                         Page 2 of 19
The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales.
Our job as regulator is to work closely with charities to ensure that they are accountable,
well run and meet their legal obligations in order to promote public trust and confidence.
As a regulator, we have a duty to consider concerns brought to our attention. However,
our statutory powers of intervention are limited and trustees have a broad discretion to
manage their charity as they see fit, within charity law and the charity’s own governing
document. We are by law not permitted to interfere in the administration of a charity or
become involved in its internal affairs, when trustees have acted within their legal
powers.

I note that you have addressed your letter to me as the “Customer Service Manager” but
just to clarify, I am a caseworker in Charity Commission Direct and unrelated to the
Customer Service team with whom I understand you have also corresponded. They
agreed that if you had new complaints about the charity further to our previous
correspondence, we would consider these as a fresh complaint against the charity, and
this is what I have done. In doing so I have checked our response with colleagues and
this is our final view on the matter. As well as me taking an impartial view of your
complaints, I need to say that the Commission as a whole remains impartial in this matter
in that the weight of your campaign or publicity given to it has not caused us to treat the
case differently. Our goal is not to act as a champion or advocate for particular groups of
members of the public, but solely to concentrate on our role as the independent regulator
of charities.

Here are the Complaints……

Complaint. 1: Failure to fulfil public access promises (as made in Environmental
Statement 1999)

That the Charity has failed to fulfil its promises regarding public access to the Hazel
manor Estate. These promises were made during public consultation and are recorded in
the Environmental Statement of 1999. The Statement includes a map of the proposed
public access, showing a network of paths for use by the public. To date just one
additional path has been opened. Tree planting was completed in 2002, so there seems no
reason why the rest of the paths should not have been opened.

Furthermore, members of the public who try to use the promised paths have been chased
from the land by the warden who uses aggressive and intimidating behaviour. Document
7 shows the experience suffered by one local resident who was ordered from the site. I
myself had an encounter with the warden on 22 February 2008. He indicated that I was to
leave, but when I attempted to engage him in conversation while recording with my video
camera, he suddenly became keen to avoid being filmed.

The majority of the estate is accessed via one main route, on which there is a sign clearly
stating “No Public Access”, thereby denying public access to the benefits promised in the
Environmental Statement (1999).

It is also a breach trust with the public, who were consulted in an extensive series of
meetings in the late 90s. These meetings resulted in two revisions of the Environmental
Statement 1999, with the revised statement then presented to the public as a basis for the
receipt of public money from the Forestry Commission for the planting of trees.

Please see hyperlinked documents.


                                        Page 3 of 19
               Document 1 is the access that existed before the charity whose object is to
                ‘secure and enhance the enjoyment of the public of the natural
                environment of those territories’, took over.
               Document 2 is the proposed public access from the Environmental
                Statement 1999.
               Document 3 is from the permissive paths information given by the agent
                (here’s the second part).
               Document 4 is a photo of the ‘No public access’ sign on the route that
                provides the only real access to more than 50% of the land area.
               Document 5 is the poster at the entrance to the main area of the estate with
                instructions not to leave the paths.
               Document 6 is the permissive path sign.
               Document 7 is a letter from a local resident who was ordered from the land
                he used to sledge on. (here’s the second page).
               Document 8 are the paths scanned on the map from 1903.
               Document 9 is my visualisation of the access actually permitted on the
                estate.

The short video file ‘Hazel Manor Farm Easter 2008’ will also show some of the points of
interest and access to the public that is being denied.

Response.
   1. We acknowledge that the “Environmental Statement of 1999”, like any other
      planning document, may be subject to change. We do not have the expertise or
      remit to consider matters of planning or public rights of way.




Complaint 2.: Claiming public benefit for permissive paths, where a minimum
exists:

That the land agent has claimed ‘public benefit’ to the press and others saying that
charitable requirements have been satisfied by
   a. The maintenance of Rights of Way. (This is a legal duty of any landowner and not
        a public benefit as such), and
   b. The ‘opening’ of permissive paths. There are 3 paths, each around 1 km in length
        and detailed below – See Document .

       A to B, (approx 1km) exists on tithe maps from 1839 and all subsequent maps.
       (Document 2 from 1903 illustrates this. It is marked as ‘Green Lane’). It is an
       unadopted road. Walkers, horses, motor vehicles have used it for centuries, but it
       was somehow missed off the Rights of Way designation. It carries two recognised
       walks and used to have a National Cycleway on it (The ‘West Country Way’).
       Declaring this as a ‘permissive path’ may be legal but it is hardly ‘opening’ this to
       the public. (Document 3, the existing access before Will Woodlands started to
       close it all off. Please note the cycleway in Blue)

       B to C (less than 1km) is new, and quite nice.

                                         Page 4 of 19
       D to E (approx 1km) exists on maps earlier maps. It may have had maintenance
       but this has not been ‘opened’

       Please click on document 7 from complaint 1 to see information provided by the
       agent.

In claiming ‘public benefit’ for Rights of Way and routes that have been open for years
the agent is being disingenuous and as such he is bringing charities into disrepute.
So with around £500,000 of public money, distributed by the Forestry Commission less
that 1km of new accessible path has been made available to the public in a 500 acre
estate. These grants contained conditions of public benefit, sport and recreation.

Response.
   2. Similarly to point 1, we cannot comment on the condition of paths over a period of
      time and have no regulatory role here.



Complaint 3: Failure to account for best practice in the Charity sector:

That the Charity has failed to take account of the best practice of the well-respected
charity, the National Trust, to welcome paragliders and hang gliders. The charity has been
made aware of this policy but has seen fit to disregard this. The National Trust policy has
been well researched and is based on the idea of providing public benefit for an activity
they describe as one that ‘seldom causes significant disturbance provided particular care
is taken with regard to livestock and birds’.

Click here for The National Trust policy .

Good practice from the NT is to liaise closely with local clubs, yet the Charity has set up
a situation where aggrieved pilots will fly without any control measures being in place,
and has formally severed contacts with the flying community. Presumably the NT would
describe this as ‘bad practice’. They have prevented any meaningful discussion about our
activities with regard to the National Trust policy.

I would like to draw your attention to your own words regarding public benefit:

From the Charity Commission’s
Discussion Paper on the Charity Commission’s Risk and Proportionality
Framework,

I see that the 2006 act is designed to

      increase public trust and confidence in charities;
      promote awareness and understanding of public benefit;
      promote trustees’ compliance with the law in their control and management of
       charities;
      promote the effective use of charitable resources; and



                                         Page 5 of 19
      enhance the accountability of charities to donors, beneficiaries and the general
       public.

Discussion Paper on the Charity Commission’s Risk and Proportionality Framework
In point 1. ‘We aim to encourage and support charities to improve their performance by
working in partnership with them and with sector umbrella groups, to help define and
facilitate best practice and share this knowledge widely.’

In point 2 ‘purpose’ ‘This paper focuses primarily on the work of our Compliance and
Support function, which is responsible for the delivery of our ‘compliance objective’
involving regulatory work with charities where their assets, services or beneficiaries are at
serious risk of abuse or damage. This includes risks to the reputation of individual
charities and, by extension, concerns about public confidence in charities generally
and the effective regulation of the sector. The role of the Compliance and Support
function is to identify and investigate apparent misconduct or mismanagement in the
administration of charities and to resolve difficulties encountered, either by providing
support to trustees or, where necessary, intervening to protect the charity by using the
Commission’s legal powers.’

Response.
   3. We do not enforce one charity’s practice on another and we do not have the
      expertise or remit to judge on what is essentially a matter of personal opinion on
      the health and safety aspects of paragliding and other sports.




Complaint 4 and 5 – Misleading Members of Parliament.

That the agent of the trustees has attempted to mislead MP Mr D Heath, (heres page 2)
and fabricated a false argument that the National Trust does not in fact welcome
paragliders.

Subsequent to the letter, I spoke to Jo Bergen of the National Trust and he stands by their
policy. He, citing the principle of ‘volenti non fit injuria’ with regard to any possibly
dangerous sport, dismissed any Health and Safety argument as baseless.

Please also see my email to the Alastair Martin requesting him not to mislead MPs (no
reply received).

The reasons for banning were described to the Rt Hon D Heath as ‘potential problems in
a Health and Safety context’ and ‘there might be also be a conflict with the trustees
conservation objectives’. Clearly this is not in line with the National Trust’s view of
health and safety issues, nor was any supporting evidence provided to the Rt Hon D
Heath.

The agent, by acting in such a disingenuous manner to a Member of Parliament, is
bringing charities into disrepute.

Response.


                                         Page 6 of 19
    4. This complaint concerns the interpretation of the National Trust’s policy, on which
       we would not offer a view. We note that Stephen Williams MP has shown an
       interest, and he has written to us about the matter last year, but we have not had
       any ongoing correspondence with the MP.



Complaint 5. Second incidence of Misleading Members of Parliament:

That the charity has failed to provide meaningful information to the representatives of the
people when requested. My MP (Stephen Williams) has taken a keen interest in this
matter, from a public benefit viewpoint.

He has written three letters requesting information about the rationale for our being
banned. In the second letter, he has expressed feelings of being ‘baffled’ and ‘perplexed’
at the vagueness of the responses from the charity agent. Charities are not covered by the
Freedom of Information act, and it seems to be wrong for agents of Charities to use this to
evade properly constituted requests for explanations of their actions. The reply is
completely bereft of useful information. My MP asks specific questions in the third letter
about the details of the reasons for our being banned. This was done as the local pilots
could not obtain any meaningful dialogue with the charity. In the reply, four of these
specific questions were not answered.

One point was covered in detail, namely the policy of the National Trust. The agent
makes a statement similar to that mentioned in complaint 4, but more blatantly.

‘It is not correct to claim that the National Trust welcomes hang gliders, as your
constituent so publicly claims.’

I am afraid that it is correct to state that, with certain caveats!! (See link)

The National Trust Recreation Manager (Jo Bergen) can be contacted on 01793817400
for comment if need be.

The agent of the charity has attempted to mislead the MP about a clear policy of a well
respected national charity.

The agent has also failed to respond to specific requests for information.

These two points constitutes a public benefit and accountability failure.

The deliberate evasion of simple questions from a member of the public is bad enough, to
evade questions from an MP raises serious questions of accountability, and motive. This
brings charities as a whole into disrepute.

Response.
See point 4 above

Complaint 6. Failure to follow best practice and heed the advice of a Nationally
recognised body


                                            Page 7 of 19
That the charity has failed to take into account clear reassurances from Steve Walsh,
National Sites Officer of the British Hang gliding and Paragliding Association. This is an
FAI internationally recognised and respected body that liases successfully with a variety
of private landowners, local councils, charities, and the Duchy of Cornwall.

This failure to follow best practice brings charities as a whole into disrepute. Charities
should be open to discussion on use by the public of the land. These are described in the
Charities Commission’s own publications for Conservation and Preservation charities
(RR 9). This should be considered especially carefully when considering an activity that
has such a long history and is so benign.

Response.
We are not in a position to judge the quality of the advice received from the British Hang
Gliding and Paragliding Association, nor can we force their views on the charity. It is up
to the charity to consider the available advice in its decision making.


Complaint 7: That the agent for the Charity has an undeclared conflict of interest
that could jeopardise judgement of public benefit.

That the land agent, Alastair Martin, has an undeclared conflict of interest in his
association with the local Hunt (The Mendip Farmers Hunt). He is in fact Chairman 2007
of that body.

It would seem his private interests could be influencing the decisions taken by the charity.
All day-to-day correspondence has been directed to him. The Hunt is based a few miles
away and would seem to potentially benefit from the restrictions that could be placed on
public access. At present the hunt is not allowed on but this can be reviewed after 20
years according to the Environmental Statement 9.17. Permissive paths could be closed
at certain times and large areas turned into a private parkland. This may well be the logic
behind all of the public access restrictions that are in place, the circumstances being
similar to those highlighted below (Complaint 17), which occurred on the Glenfeshie
estate, and were the subject of an investigation and documentary (“West Eye View” –
1998 DVD enclosed).


Under the Charity Commission rules from RR9, section 4.

General requirements for charitable status for preservation and conservation
charities

It is stated under point 2 that ‘they are set up for the benefit of the public,’ ie: they
provide sufficient public access, either by providing sufficient physical access or
provide access by suitable alternative means’.

In addition

any private benefit to individuals is incidental and properly regulated




                                           Page 8 of 19
Please click on the members contact list. Alastair Martin’s position as chairman is near
the bottom.

Response.
   5. If individual trustees have a conflict of interest then good practice suggests that
      they should handle such conflicts appropriately, that is, by declaring any conflicts
      of interest at trustee meetings and excluding themselves from discussions of
      subjects in which a conflict of interest arises. They may delegate day to day
      management of the charity, but not their trustees’ responsibilities, to the agent,
      who should act in the interests of the charity (please see point 15 below regarding
      the specific matter of the agent’ involvement in the Hunt).




Complaint 8. Selective use of the objects (aims) of the Charity to mislead the public.

The agent to the charity has attempted to mislead the public by being selective about the
charitable aims it publicises. When the local paragliding Club gave an evening of
entertainment about free flying to the Ubley villagers in November, the Charity was
invited but declined to send a representative. Instead, the Agent of the Charity sent out a
press release sent to the local villagers regarding the banning of paragliding. In this the
agent selected to publicise only those aims that suited his case, but omitted to publish the
full statement or meaning of the Will Woodlands charitable objectives. Here’s the
attached letter that accompanied the release.

To be specific, he abbreviated the aims to ‘Will Woodlands is a Charity established to
plant trees and aid conservation.’ but failed to mention the stated aim of the charity is
also to ‘secure and enhance the enjoyment by the public of the natural environment’.

By failing to mention the phrase about public access, he is misrepresenting the charity’s
aims to the public. This compromises public confidence in charities and the
misrepresentation is a breach of public accountability.

The following is the full statement of the charity’s aims, and you will note that they are
linked by the word “AND”. The charity seems to believe that the word “or” can be
substituted whenever it suits their purpose.
 THE COMPANY IS ESTABLISHED FOR CHARITABLE OBJECTS AND
PURPOSES ONLY
AND
 (WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO OR LIMITATION OF THE GENERALITY OF THE
FOREGOING WORDS) FOR THE CONSERVATION, RESTORATION AND
ESTABLISHMENT OF TREES, PLANTS, AND ALL FORMS OF WILDLIFE IN THE
UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND
AND
TO SECURE AND ENHANCE THE ENJOYMENT BY THE PUBLIC OF THE
NATURAL ENVIRONMENT OF THOSE TERRITORIES.

Response.
   6. There is no requirement for the charity to state its objects in its correspondence
      with third parties. The press release to which you refer appears to say what the


                                         Page 9 of 19
       charity has done to provide public access and benefit. It is not for us to judge the
       relative merits of arguments about health and safety versus conservation.



Complaint 9 (and 10): Failure to follow proper procedure with regard to Health and
Safety legislation.
That the Charity has used ‘Health and Safety’ as the only specific reason for banning a
long established activity. This is stated in the letter from their solicitors. (and here’s page
2). This I understand is contrary to the law on Health and Safety.

The Charity claims to have carried out a risk assessment yet does not seem able to
produce it when asked by the public, the local paragliding club, or MPs.

Response.
   7. We are not the appropriate regulator for Health and Safety (that is the role of the
      Health and Safety Executive) and we cannot comment on this point.



Complaint 10: Failure to follow proper procedure with regard to Health and Safety
legislation.

If indeed a Health and Safety risk has been performed then it has not used expert input
required by law. According to the HSE, anyone performing a risk assessment is required
to know the limits of their competence and engage someone knowledgeable to evaluate
dangers they may not be aware of.

A reply to an enquiry I made to the HSE regarding complaint 9 and 10 elicited this reply.

 ‘As you have mentioned, this event would be subject to a risk assessment. Risk
assessments are a legal requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at
Work Regulations 1999. Regulation 3 stipulate that:
 Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of -
 (a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst
they are at work; and
(b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment
arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking.’

A copy of this was forwarded to the agent of the charity.

By failing to follow best practice and Health and Safety law the Charity has acted in a
manner that brings Charities into disrepute. It has either lied about the carrying out of a
risk assessment, or it has failed to follow legally binding HSE policy on how those should
be performed.

In the letter from Dreweatt Neate on page 2 the agent says he has taken advice from the
charity’s solicitors, forestry and landscape advisers. He does not mention any specialist
aviation input. After discussing this by phone with the HSE they informed me that those
who carry out a risk assessment must understand the limits of their knowledge. It further


                                          Page 10 of 19
requires that specialist input advice MUST be obtained for a risk assessment to have
validity.


Specialist knowledge has been offered by the Avon HGPG and myself, but this has been
declined. I have commissioned a risk assessment from a professional pilot who says the
only real hazards are the recently planted trees, which the charity appear to have planted
to physically prevent our taking off from the area, and that even then, the hazard from
these is minor.

Allowing this would mean any charity or other body could ban any activity at all on ‘H
and S’ grounds.

The National Trust policy, which I would feel is a gold standard in this area, is clear.
‘Volenti non fit injuria’ means that a dangerous pursuit must be risk assessed, and then if
injury takes place, no responsibility can be attributed to the owner of the land. Please note
that the National Trust policy does not even mention any possible Health and Safety
responsibilities falling upon them.


As such the charity has failed to act as a responsible and public-spirited body, using
spurious and fabricated reasons to ban a sport that has enjoyed the use of the land for over
20 years. This amounts to a failure to consider public interest, denies public benefit and is
clearly in conflict with HSE law.

From Charity Commission ‘Discussion Paper on the Charity Commission’s Risk
and Proportionality Framework’ Point 4.
Our enhanced approach.

‘Charities must comply with the law. When trustees act reasonably and honestly we
respond flexibly and will take this into account in deciding whether to take regulatory
action against trustees, and in assessing how to support trustees to put the charity back on
a secure footing. Deliberate wrongdoing, criminality and serious abuse will be dealt with
rigorously and decisively. An effective compliance and enforcement function in the
Commission is, therefore, of vital importance.’


Response.
We are not the appropriate regulator for Health and Safety (that is the role of the
Health and Safety Executive) and we cannot comment on this point.
Complaint 11: The banning of access for a long enjoyed sport for the section of the
public that enjoys paragliding and Hang gliding.

That the Charity has completely banned access to the section of the public that enjoys
paragliding and hang gliding. This has been expressed in a letter of 25 Jan 2008. ( Here is
page 2). This is a final ban, as opposed to the temporary ban that has been complained
about before and as such this constitutes substantial new evidence.

The reasons given are confusing. There seems to be a desire to restrict long enjoyed
public access on spurious grounds. Please note the bullet points in the letter.


                                         Page 11 of 19
The first bullet point ‘public benefit does not mean unlimited public access’ seems to be
at odds with the charitable guidance given in the Charity Commission’s publication RR9
Preservation and Conservation.

Statements A 10 through to A 21 indicate that public access is paramount and that any
reasons for banning must be based on science or education. None of these apply here. I
have prepared a summary of some of the main supposed reasons for our being banned
with my comments.. Please note that none of these reasons have any basis in evidence-
based science, or have expert evidential input. They are capricious and baseless reasons.
As such they are not in compliance with Charity Commission rules. I fail to see how the
Charity Commission can logically support them.

The land is considered environmentally insignificant in the Environmental Assessment
1999

The third bullet point states ‘public access has necessarily to be limited to enable the
charity to achieve its aims, for instance the encouragement of ground nesting birds.’

There seems to be no scientific or educational rationale for this reason and a search of the
RSPB website finds no information on how our activities could compromise any project.

As you are aware, conservation charities must have “real educational purpose” (RR9 –
A13) if the species in question such as the above ground-nesting birds, are not in danger.
There is no evidence of any educational agenda behind Will Woodlands’ activities.


The fourth bullet point indicates that out activities would somehow inhibit the access for
others. The policy of the National Trust would seem to indicate that is a false premise. In
addition the information given by the National body of free flying, the British Hang
Gliding and Paragliding Association indicates that there are few reasons for conflict and
these can be accommodated by liaison with local clubs. Extensive correspondence has not
revealed any basis for this rationale.

Here is a letter from 2001 confirming a voluntary suspension of flying for a 5-year period.
There was also no logical rationale behind this ban, which the local club acceded to.
Planting took place and was completed in a short period of time. The nearest trees planted
were hundreds of yards away. It seems the decision to ban us had already been taken.
This was followed up by another letter in 2005.

The long standing nature of our activities (which only last for a few days in the year) can
be confirmed with this 2001 letter requesting a small area be left free from tree planting to
allow our harmless sport to continue. (heres page 2) In addition the history of our exciting
sport goes back a long way, and is supported by the present World Champion and two
other world rated pilots who have used to site in the past. None of this seemed to be of
any interest to the charity or its agents.




                                         Page 12 of 19
From RR9 General requirements for charitable status for preservation and
conservation charities

4. We have concluded that in order to be charitable, organisations for preservation and
conservation will need to demonstrate that:

  i.       they satisfy a criterion of merit, ie:

          for preservation charities, there is independent expert evidence that the building or
           site is of sufficient historical or architectural interest (see paragraphs A5-A9
           below);

          for species conservation charities, there is independent expert evidence that the
           species is worthy of conservation (see paragraphs A10-A13 below);

          for charities for the conservation of the environment, there is independent expert
           evidence that the land or habitat is worthy of conservation (see paragraphs A14-
           A15 below); and

Response.
       8. The charity has stated its views on how it provides public benefit. There is no
          evidence of anything to cause concern to us as the regulator of charities and we
          cannot become involved in disputes over rights of access to property.



Complaint 12; That the Charity has failed to engage in dialogue with a long-term
land user, for no sustainable reason.

Requests for meetings have been made and ignored. Only one meeting took place and
that was 3 months after a letter was sent from the Charity Solicitors, Farrers to ban our
activities permanently. Some of this delay was due to cancellations on the part of the
pilots representative, Richard Zaltzman, but the eventual meeting that took place simply
resulted in a letter cutting off all contact with the flying community.

The Charity, and its agent, in refusing to meet with representatives of the flying
community in a constructive manner have behaved in a manner that yet again brings
charities as a whole into disrepute and is a failure to be publicly accountable. It is also a
failure of public benefit requirements.

           C12 Document 1 is an early request for cooperation regarding some of the tree
           planting. (Here’s page 2)
           C12 Document 2 has a request for a meeting on the last paragraph of page 2.
           C 12 Document 3 has another request for a meeting from the Avon Club
           Chairman in paragraph 2. (Heres page 2)
           C12 Document 4 is the banning letter that came from Farrers, the solicitors.
           (Here’s page 2)
           C12 Document 5 is the response to the Farrers letter with a request to meet on
           para 4 and the last para.



                                              Page 13 of 19
       Document 6. is the letter cutting of contact with the flying community.(Heres
       page 2)

Response.
   9. It may be true that your group’s dialogue with the charity has come to a standstill
      but it is not our role to mediate or attempt to reconcile opposing views where the
      issues involved are outside our remit.




Complaint 13: That a charity devoted to ‘enhancing public access’ has withdrawn
access to several interested parties.

It is not only the paragliding and hang gliding community that has been impacted by the
actions of Will Woodlands closure of access. This complaint deals with closure of access
to cyclists.

The Charity has ignored the long enjoyed access by bicycles on the National Cycle Trail
the ‘West Country Way’, and closed access to bicycles permanently. (See sign)

As such this is a breach of their Charitable object ‘to secure and enhance the enjoyment of
the public of the natural environment of those territories’, and is a breach of public
benefit requirements.

Response.
The same arguments apply to points about access to bicycles as to access to
paragliders


Complaint 14: That a charity devoted to ‘enhancing public access’ has withdrawn
access.

As above, it is not only the paragliding and hang gliding community that has been
impacted by the actions of Will Woodlands closure of access. This complaint deals with
the access to horse riding.

That the Charity has ignored the long-enjoyed access for horses along the trail from
Compton Martin. This access has been closed permanently. There is a ‘permissive
bridleway’ along the lane I have indicated as A to B in complaint 7. This has existed for
centuries and is now ‘permissive access’ only.

These restrictions are against public benefit requirements and seem to be without
rationale. Long enjoyed access is being restricted for no reason.


This is the proposed access and there is no access proposed for bicycles or horses.

Response.
The same arguments apply to points about access to horses as to access to
paragliders


                                        Page 14 of 19
Complaint 15

I have evidence that Will Woodlands may be planning to use their land for private benefit
by promoting hunting, namely:

   a. When WW owned the Glenfeshie estate in the 1990’s, they were thought by local
      people to be deliberately failing to control the deer population so that the charity
      could make financial gains from hunting. ( see DVD – “Where there’s a Will”)
   b. The agent of the charity, Alastair Martin of Dreweatt Neate, is the Chair of the
      local hunt, based just a few miles away. (See Complaint 7)
   c. The charity has acquired new land described by the estate agent as having
      ‘sporting potential’ in Wales, the Cyffin Estate . (See accounts 2007 Page 4)
   d. The lack of rationale in the enthusiastic and aggressive manner in which public
      access has been denied. This has included the arrogant tone of many letters, the
      refusal to discuss any access issues, and the willingness to be disingenuous to MPs
      and the press.
   e. There has been a reduction in public access and the estate can be largely closed to
      the public at the owners’ discretion.

Alastair Martin has been very keen to assert that hunting is not allowed at Hazel Manor,
but when I asked what future plans there are for hunting I received no reply. I believe that
it is relevant that the hunt was formerly allowed on the land, and also that the
Environmental Statement says that the situation regarding hunting will be reviewed after
20 years. After 2012, the Forestry Commission’s ability to use financial leverage will
expire, and the Charity will be able to do as it wishes with little prospect of control,
except by the Charity Commission.

If this matter is investigated, might I suggest that other charities, as set up by the trustee
Alastair McDonald be looked at? He is a recently retired partner of Hays Mcintyre in
London. One of his specialities was setting up charities for private clients. Perhaps he has
set up others, which are merely a front for the acquisition of land to further the activities
of the hunting or shooting fraternity.

In my dealings with the charity I have found them to be the exact antithesis of what I
would expect a charity to be. This adds to the suspicion of what their real motives are.


Under the Charity Commission rules from RR9, section 4.

General requirements for charitable status for preservation and conservation charities

It is stated under point 2 that ‘they are set up for the benefit of the public,’ ie: they
provide sufficient public access, either by providing sufficient physical access or
provide access by suitable alternative means’.

In addition

any private benefit to individuals is incidental and properly regulated



                                          Page 15 of 19
Response.
   10. The possible future consequences of the involvement or otherwise of the land
       agent’s representative in the local Hunt is a matter of opinion and as discussed in
       point 7 above, it is for the trustees to be satisfied that they have appointed a
       representative who will act in the interests of the charity. There is no case to
       answer at this time since the Hunt has apparently accepted that it will not use the
       land for at least another four years, and we will not enter into discussions of
       hypothetical situations or rumours. As to your suggestions about “other charities
       as set up by the trustee Alistair Macdonald”, what evidence of wrongdoing can be
       provided? The 1998 programme on the DVD covers the charity’s trusteeship of
       the Glenfeshie estate and it would be wrong to judge their management of Hazel
       Manor Farm by the same criteria. It is up to them to consider what lessons, if any,
       need to be learned from Glenfeshie.



Complaint 16
That the charity has concealed its name from the public on the entry signs. There is no
acknowledgement that the land is either

   a. Owned by Will Woodlands, or
   b. Charity land.

How can public accountability be assured if the public has no means of contacting the
charity? Would the National Trust conceal its ownership from the many visitors to its
land?

There are no other maps of the estate on display. It is usual for land that is for public
benefit to display a set of welcoming maps, yet there are none on this site.

This again is a matter of bringing charities into disrepute and a failure to be publicly
accountable. How can public accountability be ensured when the Charity does not admit
its ownership.

Here are various signs
Sign 1
Sign 2
Sign 3
Sign 4 Entry sign

Please note no indications of Charity or Will Woodlands involvement. Please note that
this has been the previous policy of the Charity. In the attached DVD (Where Theres a
Will’) the signs, which deny public access, do not attribute ownership of the land.
Response.
   11. There is no requirement for a charity to display signage indicating its ownership of
       a piece of land.




Complaint 17


                                       Page 16 of 19
I understand that the Charity Commission regards negative coverage in the media of
charities’ activities as detrimental to the reputation of charities as a whole. My complaint
is that the policies pursued by the charity have resulted in negative press coverage.

There were two TV reports of a protest march, of 14th Oct 2007, which attracted around
50 people. These can be seen here on Youtube.

After the protest march of 14th Oct, the Chew Valley Gazette produced an article and it is
here. There were several letters that followed. (and more) (and some more.)

In addition, the press release and letter sent to local residents were regarded by many of
those residents as arrogant in tone as the sport oft enjoyed by locals has been banned for
no logical rationale.

In the local paper, the ‘Chew Valley Gazette’ the most recent article of March 2008 is
effectively an open letter asking the charity to justify its position. Its reply is eagerly
awaited and a copy of the article has been sent to the charity agent.

This coverage again brings charities into disrepute. You may note from the ITV report
that the charity claims that paragliders scare cattle. This is a false claim, and not
supported by any science or evidence. This is not borne out by the experience of the many
other landowners that permit paragliding around the county.

The BBC have indicated that they wish to be involved when we have another protest
which will occur as soon as we get suitable weather on a weekend. In addition ‘Private
Eye’ have said they will run an article on this, and the Chew Valley Gazette also has
indicated it will keep this matter in the public eye. Other media outlets are showing
interest too. As you can see, the charity will continue to attract bad publicity unless its
behaviour changes.

ITV covered the charity’s purchase of Hazel Manor Farm 10 years ago in a hard-hitting
documentary on ‘West Eye View’. In this documentary, the charity attracted much
concern about the failure to communicate effectively with various agencies, and the
emphasis on hunting, in their short-lived stewardship of the Glenfeshie estate in Scotland.
The demands of hunting seemed to take precedence over the requirements of public
access and benefit. The pattern appears to have repeated itself at Hazel Manor Farm.
(DVD will be sent separately.)

Again here is some of the Charity Commission’s own information…

 Discussion Paper on the Charity Commission’s Risk and Proportionality Framework
In point 1. ‘We aim to encourage and support charities to improve their performance by
working in partnership with them and with sector umbrella groups, to help define and
facilitate best practice and share this knowledge widely.’

In point 2 ‘purpose’ ‘This paper focuses primarily on the work of our Compliance and
Support function, which is responsible for the delivery of our ‘compliance objective’
involving regulatory work with charities where their assets, services or beneficiaries are at
serious risk of abuse or damage. This includes risks to the reputation of individual
charities and, by extension, concerns about public confidence in charities generally


                                         Page 17 of 19
and the effective regulation of the sector. The role of the Compliance and Support
function is to identify and investigate apparent misconduct or mismanagement in the
administration of charities and to resolve difficulties encountered, either by providing
support to trustees or, where necessary, intervening to protect the charity by using the
Commission’s legal powers.’

Response.
   12. I note the media coverage and local and MP interest but it is for the charity to
       consider reputational issues and how to respond to such coverage. We are not
       contacting the charity about the issues you have raised.



Complaint 18: Failure to document the requests for access from user groups
including the paragliders in their annual accounts.

The Charity Commission’s guidance document RR9 A29 states that charities should
declare any user groups to whom access has been denied and consider whether such
banning should be continued. In the 2007 accounts page 3 there is no reference to the
groups that have had access denied. It does not exist in previous years accounts.

According to the Charity Commission it is not required that this be documented but is
described as ‘good practice’. I have attached the accounts and the SIR document which
gives the answer under ‘who benefits’ as ‘the invironment (sic)’. Presumably ‘the
environment’. I brought this up with the Charity Commission before but the reply from
Mr Darlow indicated that more evidence was required. I would hope the above amounts
to a substantial amount of evidence.



From RR9

A29. Charities have obligations set out in the Charities Act 1993 to prepare an annual
report and submit it to us. We recommend that it would be good practice for preservation
and conservation charities which are responsible for sites or buildings to state, either in
their annual report or elsewhere.

      the numbers of people who visit the property and, where appropriate, the
       numbers who have enquired but been unable to visit;
      the arrangements to publicise opening hours either nationally or within the
       locality, depending on the importance of the property;
      Where access is limited or not available, the justification for continuing such a
       policy, with details of alternative methods used to inform the public of progress.

Response.
   As our publication RR9 states, this is good practice, not a legal requirement, and we
   cannot enforce points of good practice. Regarding the other points you make about
   the RR9 guidance throughout your letter, there do not appear to be any breaches of
   the legal requirements in this guidance by the charity.



                                        Page 18 of 19
To summarise, it is not appropriate for us to raise these concerns with the charity since
they are aware of the situation and there are no matters of regulatory concern for the
Charity Commission. We have spent a considerable amount of time dealing with your
complaint and similar correspondence and we may not respond to future complaints
about this matter.

I realise that this is not the response you are seeking, but I hope I have made our
position clear.




Regards.

Please advise as to your opinions on the above.


Ken Wilkinson




                                       Page 19 of 19

				
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