Council agrees to sell two Staffordshire farms as part of estate review
Staffordshire County Council has agreed to sell off two of its farms as part of a review of the agricultural estate.
The authority has proposed the sale of 16 holdings and vacant land and property not considered to be part of the “core estate” to raise up to £20m.
The proceeds are set to be used to support health and care services and invest in the county’s infrastructure, as well as being reinvested in the county farms estate.
Around 1,700 acres of land has been earmarked for sale and tenants at the affected farms are being offered the chance to buy their holdings first.
If they choose not to buy, the units are set to be sold with them as sitting tenants.
This month the council’s property sub-committee gave the green light for two sites to be sold; Holding No 50 at Gnosall’s Plardiwick Estate and Holding No 4 at the Levedale Estate at Levedale, near Penkridge.
Holding No 4 is set to be sold jointly to the sitting tenant and the tenant of Holding No 47 at the Plardiwick Estate. This means Holding No 47 will be released for disposal in accordance with the county farms review programme.
The committee also agreed this month to let another farm – No 60 at the Yarlet Estate at Yarlet, near Stafford. The letting of this “progression tenancy” means a “starter farm” will be released for disposal in line with the review programme.
Speaking earlier this year county councillor Mark Winnington, a farmer and cabinet member for economic growth, said: “Unlike some other local authorities over the years we have invested in our farm estate to keep it viable and to maximise efficiency and value.
“As part of that we regularly review our holdings and we will continue to invest in the future. The estate will still be more than 6,600 acres and still give ambitious newcomers the opportunity to benefit from professional support and management as they gain experience and then step up to something bigger; either within the authority’s estate, or in the wider industry.
“Our farms offer commercially-minded aspirational young people a foothold in the industry and our tenants make a valuable contribution to Staffordshire’s rural economy.
“Money raised from land sales since 2013 has been put towards superfast broadband, building schools, roads and extra care facilities, as well as creating industrial estates such as i54 South Staffordshire, Redhill in Stafford and Liberty Park in Lichfield. This is part of the process of investing in our future for the benefit of our residents.”
But the move was not welcomed by the Tenant Farmers’ Association.
TFA treasurer Robert Martin, said “It is very sad to hear of another county council selling off tenant farms from its rural portfolio to pay for council services. These county farms should be looked on as a national asset, and not as something to be sold to fill a budget shortfall.
“Local authorities must take a much more proactive approach to their management policies in order to provide important opportunities for new entrants and contribute to the wider local authority functions.
“The importance of domestic food production, especially in the context of post Brexit planning, is brought home more clearly, especially if this land is taken out of agricultural production.”