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There's much binding on the marshes

PUBLISHED: 15:35 30 March 2009 | UPDATED: 08:05 01 August 2010

COUNCILLORS were last night still awaiting news of developments about a complicated issue that has left it bogged down in a legal quagmire.

Beccles Town Council is in a state of limbo as it waits to hear from the Charity Commission whether Beccles Marshes have charitable status.

COUNCILLORS are still awaiting news of developments about a complicated issue that has left it bogged down in a legal quagmire.

Beccles Town Council is in limbo as it waits to hear from the Charity Commission whether Beccles Marshes have charitable status.

The marshes were given to the people of the town in 1584 by Queen Elizabeth I, but in recent times the council, as registered freehold owner, has rented much of the land -some 750 acres - to farmers to graze livestock.

The money that comes in amounts to about £40,000 a year and is the council's third main source of income. But, after an inquiry from an individual, the commission believes the land may have charitable status and might be prepared to contest owner-ship.

According to the commission, records exist to show that the land has been treated as a charitable trust as far back as 1829 - a view disputed by the town council.

If legal experts agree the lands do have charitable status, the property must be run separately from the town council by a group of trustees and be subject to specific rules and accounting procedures.

The council would be left with a gap in its budget that could mean having to put up its precept - its share of the overall council tax bill that goes to townspeople.

The commission is still investigating, having told councillors in early February that it expected to have a preliminary assessment of the land within a month.

But Beccles mayor David Smith said: "We have heard nothing so far. We are in a state of limbo. This is seen as a rather senseless exercise because all the money we get in is already spent on Beccles for the benefit of the people."

Mr Smith said the issue made it difficult for the council to make funding arrangements for future projects, including the one for Beccles' outdoor pool.

The council has agreed to back that project despite the delicate financial situation.

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