Trust set to freeze grants to town

Shop local at Garstang Market Hall
Shop local at Garstang Market Hall
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Garstang’s highest profile public benefactor - which has given away more than £50,000 to local groups over the past 10 years - has admitted it has little money left for any more community grants.

Numerous organisations have benefitted from Garstang Town Trust’s generosity, including Garstang Sports and Social Club, which was given thousands of pounds to help buy the town’s sports fields from Wyre Council six years ago.

The Trust, a hangover from local government in the latter years of Queen Victoria’s reign, owns several old buildings in Garstang centre and runs the High Street market on Thursdays.

For many decades rent to the Trust from stallholders and tenants has been ploughed back into the community via grants and the upkeep of properties.

But the Trust’s ability to give grants has been severely dented by its purchase of property at the rear of the old town hall, including the empty slaughterhouse. The purchase of these buildings plus increasing costs on other ageing properties, means the organisation is unlikely to be making any more grants “for the foreseeable future.”

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The Trust rarely makes public statements and has a policy of refusing media interviews.

But this week the Trust issued a statement to the Courier about its financial situation and other matters.

Trust clerk Kate Rowe, said: “Due to recent financial investment in the property at the rear of the Town Hall including the old slaughterhouse and due to the fact that the properties under the guardianship of the Trust, being of a good age, are in need of repair and maintenance the Trust regret that they may not be able to give any further grants for the foreseeable future.”

When questioned further on the purchase of the building - why the Trust had decided to buy it and if there were plans for further investment in it, Mrs Rowe added ‘there is no further information at this time.’

The statement also says the historic documents which outline the Trust’s status and powers are all available for public inspection at Lancashire Archives office in Preston.

Public concerns about the location of the original Charles II charter which set up the predecessor body to the Trust have been subject of debate since Eddie Zielinski, one of Mrs Rowe’s predecessors as Trust clerk, expressed concern about its whereabouts in an interview with a regional magazine three years ago.

* A total of more than £50,000 in grants over the past 10 years has gone to local groups including Garstang Childrens’Festival, Garstang in Bloom, Scouts and Guides, Garstang Christmas Lights, Tennis Club, Sports and Social Club, Garstang Gym Club, Millennium Green, Cheshire Home, Garstang Theatre Group, Garstang High School, Garstang Pre-School, the Alms Houses, Fairtrade Group, Hummingbirds and the Arts Festival.

The Trust has 11 members, all prominent citizens of the area. Its current chairman is Mrs Tessa Ferguson. Other members are Eddie Livesey, Tom Ibison, Anne Humphreys, David Carr, Lady Dulcie Atkins, Lyn Nickson, Tom Balmain, Michael Halford, Gordon Harter and Norah Hoyles.

Members are nominated by Wyre Borough and Garstang Town Councils, or co-opted locally.

The Trust is a registered charity.

The Trust does not have a website. One of the few sources of information about it is the Charity Commission website which includes Trust’s accounts for the year ending March 2013. They show it had an income that year of £51,739 and spent £54,483.

The Trust gets its income from market toll and shop rents, and its two main tenants, the Royal British Legion Club and Garstang Arts Centre.