THE Charity Commission is examining the conduct of Malvern Hills Conservators in its controversial dispute with the tenant of St Ann’s Well.

The long-running saga started in 2009 when John Redman was told he must leave the hillside café he had occupied since 1991.

After protests and petitions from Mr Redman’s supporters, and lengthy negotiations and mediation, a new lease was finally agreed in May 2011, but not before tens of thousands of pounds had been spent on professional advice and litigation.

Although the Conservators have set up their own inquiry, chairman Brian Pilcher has now written to the Charity Commission because of his concerns over the spending, which includes £47,000 on advisers, in-house costs of about £43,000 and £28,500 to cover Mr Redman’s costs.

He told the Gazette yesterday: “It was my statutory duty to inform the Charity Commission of my concerns, and they asked us for further information.”

A subsequent e-mail from Bethan Wilkins-Jones of the Commission to the Conservators read: “It is clear the Commission has a potential regulatory concern here. This is because £118,500 of charity money has been spent on litigation that was ultimately unsuccessful.”

The commission has since been sent documents about the affair.

Its involvement opens up the possibility that individuals who were Conservators board members, and therefore charity trustees, when key decisions were made might find themselves personally liable for the spending.

Mr Redman said he welcomed the commission’s involvement: “I think they will be asking some crucial questions about what advice was given, how decisions were made and who was responsible.”

The Conservators’ own inquiry committee has compiled a list of more than 50 questions it feels need answering.

The list can be seen at malvernhills. ommittee%20Questions.pdf, or viewed at the office in Grange Road. Members of the public are being invited to comment before Monday, May 14.

􀁥 The new director of Malvern Hills Conservators, whose name was announced at last month’s board meeting, has withdrawn from the post. Christopher Tomlin has since turned it down because of personal reasons. The post now goes to Steven Bounds, who is due to start at the end of June.