1883 Tilehurst map

Tilehurst Poor's Land Charity


TPLC Rebuttal of "Keep Kentwood Green" allegations about the charity's Frequently-asked questions.

This document is the Charity's response to allegations and misleading information published by the KKG group which is campaigning against the Charity's plans to sell some of its land for development in accordance with the allocation in the RBC Local Plan. Click Here.

Response to the Public meeting of the 14-Oct-2022.

This document is the Charity's response to the 31 questions compiled at the public meeting on 14th October 2022 - including the reasons why the Charity was not represented at the meeting. Click Here.


Recently Asked Questions

Why are contractors now being sent in to clear the land for development?

The site is not being ‘cleared for development to start’, but a limited amount of clearance is needed to provide access for the necessary inspections and surveys – including environmental surveys – to take place.  In order to identify the important trees, flora and fauna on the site, the arboriculture and ecology specialists must be able to do their job and inspect the site, effectively and safely.  Since the empty site was first put forward for development, it has become very overgrown, and so brambles and other overgrowth must be cut back sensitively.  This limited cutting-back has been discussed in depth with the relevant Reading Borough Council officer, and has been approved by RBC.  Further information about the preparatory work for inspections and surveys is available in the form of a webinar at https://www.chaneys-cs.com/kentwood-hill-and-armour-hill-site-update-setpember-2022/

Why didn’t you tell people in August when the work on-site would start?

RBC approved the site work on 9th August 2022, with no defined start date.  The Charity didn’t learn of the proposed start date for the work until early September, and we issued notices to all our allotment holders as soon as we were able to.  We would have liked to have given more notice of the work, but this was impracticable.

Why are you shutting the allotments car park?

The Charity had hoped to be able to keep the car park open for use by allotment holders during the site works.  However, the presence of protesters on the planned date for work to start led to concerns on the part of the contractors for the welfare of their staff.  With regret, therefore, the Charity has been left with no option but to close the car park temporarily for the duration of the site works (anticipated to be about three weeks).

Why not just drop the whole idea of building houses on the land?

It has long been clear that the Charity had insufficient resources to meet local demands from those in need, and that situation is only going to get worse.  In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, energy prices have started to shoot up, along with the general cost of living.  Many more people are facing falling standards of living, fuel poverty, cold winters, expensive food and transport, and so on.  Warnings of the scale of financial hardship that will strike our community cannot be dismissed as scare-mongering.  It will take some time for the benefits of the land-sale to come through in the form of funds for making grants, and the sooner that progress can be made, the sooner the Charity will be able to help the growing numbers experiencing real poverty.

How is the church involved in TPLC?

No church has any role or influence in the running of TPLC, which has been a civil charity for over 200 years.  Our Governing Document states that the incumbent of one local church is automatically a Trustee of the Charity, and that three local councils are given the power to nominate one Trustee each.  However, the Trustees do not and cannot represent their nominating organisations – indeed, they are legally required to make decisions in the best interests of the Charity and its beneficiaries, putting this above the interests of the organisation that nominated them.  There is no other connection between TPLC and any council, church, political party, or commercial/trade body.  If any member of the public considers that a Trustee or group of Trustees is acting improperly, any unresolved complaints should be referred to the Charity Commission for final resolution – not to any council or church organisation.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is TPLC’s charitable objective?

The charity’s aim is the relief of poverty by making grants of money for goods and/or services to people in need, hardship and distress.  This is set down in our Governing Document, and legally we are required to place this objective above all other considerations in our decision-making.

Where does TPLC get the money it uses to make grants?

TPLC is what is known as an “endowed charity”.  The money available to us for our grant-giving and running costs is limited to the income we bring in from land rentals and from capital investments – around £18-£20,000 income per year.  We are not permitted to spend our capital, which is the proceeds from previous land sales.

What sorts of things do the grants cover?

We provide money for essentials like cookers, washing machines, furniture and school uniforms, as well as funding course fees and school trips for students who would not otherwise be able to afford them.  These are only examples – we are able to consider requests for any goods, services or debt repayments.  We are not permitted to make payments for anything that can be funded from state benefits, or payments of court fines or tax arrears (including Council Tax).

Can you give us some specific examples?

Recent grants have included:

·         Carpeting for a family home where the father is suffering from cancer;

·         White goods (kitchen appliances) for a family fleeing sexual violence;

·         School uniform for 3 children of a single mother;

·         Clothing support for an Armed Forces veteran;

·         Furniture and white goods for a refugee family suffering domestic violence;

·         White goods for a family with 3 children with significant health problems.

Your income exceeds your expenditure, so why the need to sell land?

We are not allowed to use our capital for grants, so we have to be very careful to manage our cash flow to make sure that we don’t overspend or find ourselves at the end of the year with no money to help people in urgent need.  In actual fact, the level of applications often exceeds the relatively small amount of money coming in, and we have historically been unable to consider many of the requests we receive, or have been able to meet them only partially.  The current economic situation – with the recent withdrawal of the universal credit uplift, pandemic-related job losses and huge fuel price increases on the horizon – will inevitably make things worse, leading to increased poverty and need which we are simply not equipped to meet.  The invested proceeds from the land sale will give us a significantly increased income stream that will permit us to scale up our activities and become far more pro-active in publicising the help we can offer.

What land are you selling?

We are selling land at Armour Hill and Kentwood Hill which Reading Borough Council included in its Local Plan as “Development for Residential” areas, together with a small intervening copse, known as “the Withies”.  The area with trees is identified in the Local Plan as an Area of Biodiversity Interest, and is protected from development through planning restrictions and a Tree Preservation Order.

Is this just the thin end of the wedge?  Will the allotments be next?

We have no plans to sell the land that is currently being used as allotments.

Why was your intention to sell kept quiet, and why was the community not consulted about the sale?

It wasn’t, and they were!  Our intention to sell the land has been in the public domain for a number of years – it appears in all the Annual Reports on our website, and was even mentioned by the local press when we celebrated our bi-centenary back in 2011.  And the land was clearly identified in RBCs draft local plan, which was subject to full public consultation prior to its adoption in 2019.  There will be further statutory opportunities for people to express their views during the planning process, as and when a planning application is made.

What is the land earmarked for development being used for at the moment?

There is a builder’s yard on part of it, and the rest has been unused for many years.

What about its past use?

Although there have never been houses on the land, it has in the past accommodated agricultural and small business premises such as piggery buildings, a furniture-manufactory and a builder’s yard.  Up until 1998 there was also sporadic use of the land for allotments, but plot-holders were paid compensation to relocate to vacant plots on the main allotment site, and no plot-holder willing to cultivate an allotment was deprived of a plot.  Across the site there are numerous concrete floor slabs left from past buildings and shed bases.

It has been suggested that TPLC should “put the environment first” and preserve the land as “green space” in perpetuity.  Why are you not prepared to do this?

We recognise that other members of the community may order their priorities differently, but legally we are required to place the relief of poverty above all other considerations in our decision-making.  We cannot legally agree to protect this land from development for ever.  Not only would that be to put other considerations above poverty, but it would also be illegal for us to knowingly take a step which would decrease the value of our endowed land assets by a substantial sum.  In such circumstances the Trustees could be individually liable.

Why can’t you withdraw the land from sale and come up with a “greener” way of making an income from it?

The sale of this land is expected to bring in a substantial amount of money – and the resulting income stream will equip us to help more local people who are struggling to make ends meet, not just now, but for many years to come.  We could not hope to generate an equivalent income by any other means, and need to act in the best interests of the charitable purpose we are legally bound to serve.

If you are so short of cash, why don’t you increase rents on the allotments, builder’s yard and Victoria Recreation Ground?

We regularly review rents on the builder’s yard and allotments to ensure that they keep pace with the market.  The Victoria Recreation Ground is leased to RBC under an arrangement where they could terminate the lease but we cannot.  We have attempted to bring RBC to the table for long-overdue re-negotiations, but thus far have not been successful.  In any case, though, any increased income from these sources would be of a much smaller order of magnitude to that which would flow from the land sale.

Why have you been leafletting local shops?

The “Keep Kentwood Green” (KKG) group have placed their petition in those same shops, and we believe that it is right that people should understand what TPLC is about and the background to our decision in order that they can reach a clear and rounded understanding of the situation before deciding whether or not to sign.

Why have you fenced the access to the allotments through the land to be sold?

Because of a recent rise in reports of trespass onto the Charity’s unused land, and some criminal damage that has been reported to police, additional fencing has had to be erected.  We do not agree that this has blocked an “established access way” – there are no rights of way over the Charity’s land, and the gate on Kentwood Hill has been padlocked shut for over 20 years.  However, if allotment holders are experiencing particular difficulties, for example because of mobility issues, they should contact us direct via our clerk (clerk@tilehurstplc.org.uk), so that we can try to find a mutually acceptable solution.

We have broad concerns about development, the environment and green space – why will you not engage with us on these?

We are, of course, aware of these concerns, but they are not matters that TPLC can legitimately take into account in its decision-making or on which we can usefully comment, because we are required to focus on addressing poverty above all else.  Rather, they are matters for the planning authorities, who will, as is right, give them due consideration as and when a planning application is made.  An environmental impact assessment will be carried out as a statutory part of the planning process, and there will be opportunities for people to feed in their views at that stage.

You have spent a lot of money on marketing this land – how can you justify that?

The costs of marketing land may seem to be a lot of money, but it’s only a fraction of what we’ve spent on making grants – and it’s a tiny amount relative to the additional income that the charity will receive from a successful sale.  We are satisfied that the potential benefits vastly outweigh the initial outlay.  We consulted the Charity Commission in advance, and they were content that the Charity has the authority to sell any of its land, and that marketing and other preparations for sale are a proper use of the charity’s funds.


Overview of the Tilehurst Poor's Land Charity

The purpose of this long-established Charity is to provide financial grants to those in need, hardship or distress who live in the ancient Parish of Tilehurst, in other words living in Tilehurst, Holybrook, Theale or West Reading. As the name suggests, the Charity owns land, some of which has been sold and the proceeds invested, so that the Charity's income comes from both investments and rents.

allotment gardens

Some land is let as allotments, and the rents contribute to the annual sum available to help the poor. Although the Charity lets allotments to about 100 people, it is under no legal obligation to provide allotments, and does so as a way of raising money. Under Charity law, the Trustees of the Charity are obliged to seek the best income possible from their investments, and so should always be looking for opportunities to improve the Charity's income.

Victoria Recreation Ground

The Charity also owns the Victoria Recreation Ground in Tilehurst, Reading, which is leased to, and managed by, Reading Borough Council. Were the Council to give up the lease, the Trustees have no authority to manage a recreation ground, and would need to find a new manager or to use the land for another purpose.

The purpose of the Charity is to provide financial help for the poor in the local area and each year it provides around £12,000 to help about 90 applicants. There is no typical applicant, but many live on State Benefits, and may have just been housed by the Council in empty accommodation, with no furniture, carpets or electrical goods. Many applications are from single-parent families who have no support from the other parent and find themselves with an urgent need to replace a cooker or a washing machine, or to buy uniform when a child goes to a new school. Others include small grants toward the cost of further education or retraining.

Some examples of financial grants include:

  • A single mother with two young children who had just left a violent relationship was re-housed in an empty property - the Charity provided her with a cooker, a freezer and a washing machine.
  • Another single mother with four children, the oldest aged six, who moved into new accommodation - the Charity provided bunk beds for the two older boys.
  • A married couple with two young children, forced to move to Reading following racial harassment elsewhere - the Charity helped to provide furniture for the family.
  • An elderly lady in her 90s - received a grant from the Charity for non-slip flooring for her bathroom.
  • A severely disabled gentleman and an amputee - each received a grant from the Charity for new clothes.

    Updated 15-Jan-2024