A tenant farmer being evicted from Herefordshire County Council’s farm estate has demanded an explanation after the council promised he would stay.

Farmer Steve Clayton wrote to the council to say he feels kicked in the teeth that he is being evicted from his home and business at the end of this month despite assurances from the council in December 2015.

In the letter Mr Clayton said that at a Council Cabinet meeting in December 2015 council leader Tony Johnson dispelled rumours that the sale of 4,500 acres of the farm estate would result in the eviction of tenants.

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“There has been much rumour and I think some conversation on the radio yesterday that this was going to turn people out of their homes etc and that is extremely wide of the mark,” Mr Johnson is quoted as saying.

No excuses

Despite this assurance, Mr Clayton and a number of other farmers on the estate were served notice to quit in February 2016.

Mr Clayton said that in the intervening period the council has “neither listened to reason nor provided any excuse for why the promises made in December 2015 have turned to dust.”

He added that on top of this, the council is using technicalities to prevent him from obtaining a legitimate settlement for his end of tenancy claim, stopping him from securing future accommodation.

Tenant Farmers Association chief executive George Dunn said this was a clear case of a council officeholder saying one thing and doing another, and adding insult to injury by taking an overly legalistic approach to Mr Clayton’s compensation claim.

“In the wake of serving notices to quit on some of its farm tenants, the council promised that it would do everything possible to assist tenants, but again the way in which it is dealing with Mr Clayton’s end of tenancy claim demonstrates that those promises were merely empty words,” said Mr Dunn.

Misled

In November 2016 the local government and social care ombudsman determined that the council had not acted improperly by giving farmers on Farm Business Tenancy contracts notice, despite acknowledging the comments given by Mr Johnson at the meeting as being misleading.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Herefordshire Council cannot comment on tenants’ individual circumstances.
 
“The process of the launch, marketing and handling of bids and subsequent sales has, and will continue to, follow our adopted governance procedures.”