The Preston Down Trust, a Brethren congregation in Devon, was turned down by the Charity Commission in June last year.

At the time the regulator said its decision was based on the church’s doctrine of separation from the rest of society and on ‘insufficient evidence of meaningful access to public worship’

The Preston Down Trust appealed the decision and negotiations are on-going.

If the case does go to tribunal the Charity Commission will call witnesses who have contacted them about alleged harm done by the religious group.

Founded in the 19th century, the Brethren have 46,000 members worldwide including 16,000 in the UK. Preston Down member Rod Buckley said, ‘It’s a feeling of puzzlement and great sorrow to us that we’re having to go through this battle.’