Funds raised through the sale of the county farms are set to be reinvested by the council in services such as health, care and the authority’s remaining holdings. Staffordshire County Council aims to raise £20m – and the first round of sales has already netted £11m.
In October the authority announced the latest phase of farm sales, which included holdings in Hilderstone, Rugeley, Gnosall and Penkridge. And this month the authority’s property sub-committee approved the sale of the following seven: Holding No 7, Old Wood Rugeley (farm holding and woodland of 34.66 acres) Holding No 8 Old Wood, Rugeley (39.52 acres) Holding No 44 Plardiwick, Gnosall (134.83 acres) Holding No 7 Rue Barn, Eccleshall (142.52 acres) Holding No 2 and Holding No 3, Upper Woollaston, Church Eaton and Holding No 120 Wooliscroft, Hilderstone (114 acres).
The county council still has holdings totalling around 6,600 acres however, which are rented to tenants including newcomers to the farming industry to enable them to establish themselves in agriculture. The estate’s holdings range from 30 to 200 acres and includes 14 “starter farms”.
Existing tenants of the farms put up for sale were offered the opportunity to buy them first. Some did so, while others moved onto larger holdings to expand their businesses, retired, or decided to continue as sitting tenants for the new owners.
Council leader Alan White, speaking last year, said: “Money from the sale of the ‘non-core’ part of the estate will be used to support health and care and investment in Staffordshire’s physical and electronic infrastructure for the future.
“Some of the money will also be reinvested in the County Farms estate. We will still have around 6,600 acres at the end of this process and will continue to give ambitious newcomers the opportunity and support they need to take their first steps in the industry.
“Our farms offer commercially-minded aspirational new entrants, many of them young, a foothold in the industry, with many going on to run larger farms, either as part of the council’s County Farms estate, or in the private sector.
“Not only is Staffordshire continuing to support one of the county’s core industries, our tenants make a valuable contribution to our rural economy.”