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Friends of Victoria Hall take Charity Commission to court over Ealing Council’s sell off of Victoria Hall

Two residents from Ealing and supporting The Friends Of Victoria Hall (FoVH) will be in court later this month to challenge the Charity Commission over its approval for Ealing Council’s sell off of Victoria Hall to property developer Mastcraft as part of a planned new luxury hotel and leisure facility.

A two day online hearing on 27 and 28 September 2022 is to take place.  It’s the latest development in a six year fight campaigners have had with Labour-run Ealing Council over the selling off of Ealing Town Hall which includes Victoria Hall. Campaigners say Victoria Hall does not belong to the council.

In July 2016 Ealing Council signed an agreement with hotel group Mastcraft to sell off the Town Hall buildings on a 250-year lease and turn it into a luxury hotel. According to Friends of Victoria Hall this is not something that the council has authority or ownership to do so.

The campaigners say over 20% of Ealing Town Hall consists of the Victoria Hall, built by public subscription and owned since 1893 by a charitable trust set up to run the venue to benefit the local community that had paid for it.

At the time of the announcement, former Ealing Council leader Councillor Julian Bell said: “Ealing Town Hall is a magnificent building that is well-loved locally but, like all historic buildings, it is very expensive to maintain and repair and is in considerable need of refurbishment.”

He added: “It is essential that we leave a legacy that assures its future at the civic heart of our community so that it can continue to accommodate a range of democratic, community and commercial activities that contribute to Ealing’s economic and cultural life in the 21st Century and beyond. I am determined to find a way to preserve this historic building as a lasting legacy for the people of the borough while reducing the burden on council tax payers.”

Later in January 2019, Councillor Bell said: “Mastcraft has a track record in restoring and converting historic buildings into high quality, boutique hotels such as the Courthouse hotel in Shoreditch. If their plans are approved, they will help us to create a lasting legacy for this much-loved local building, keeping its civic facilities and bringing new exciting uses to Ealing Town centre.”

Since then, many have campaigned against the council with over 2,000 people signing a petition. But in March 2021 and despite much local opposition, the Charity Commission agreed to let Ealing Council take over the property of the charitable trust.

Will French, one of the two appellants against the Charity Commission decision, said: “The Victoria Hall is the only large venue in the borough that’s easily accessible from Acton, Ealing, Greenford, Hanwell, Northolt, Perivale and Southall. The idea of losing it to a boutique hotel is outrageous.”

Tony Miller who will be appearing alongside Mr French at the court hearing added: “We’re now into the seventh year of this sorry saga. If the Council had done its homework at the start it would have discovered it didn’t own the Victoria Hall and might have come up with a better idea for it, such as running it properly as a performance, meetings and exhibition venue.”

FoVH says the Victoria Hall, which accounts for over 20% of the property,  belongs to the charitable Victoria Hall Trust and not Ealing Council.

Councillor Athena Zissimos, Liberal Democrat member of Victoria Hall Trust Committee, said: “Liberal Democrats say that Ealing Council should not sell off our community assets. The Victoria Hall should be kept in the hands of the residents of Ealing Council as it has always been and should continue to be.”
Councillor Zissimos added: “Labour-run Ealing Council should come clean about how much money it makes and spends on maintaining the hall. The council is no longer taking bookings beyond December for Victoria Hall which appears to be an attempt to run the service down. This is scandalous.”

Mr French and Mr Miller launched their legal challenge in April 2021 on behalf of FoVH, which has raised over £70,000 to pay for legal advice.

The court hearing on 27 and 28 September 2022 will take place online and is open to the public. Anyone who wishes to view the court proceedings needs to  email: before 19 September 2022 and providing their name, address and the reason why they wish to watch the hearings.

EALING.NEWS has approached Ealing Council for a comment.

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