21 July 1995

British Coal valuation of land upsets Welsh

POOR communication between farmers and British Coal is threatening livelihoods in south Wales, warn Gwent farmers.

British Coal, which is selling all its farm land, is overvaluing farms and reluctant to engage in negotiations, said farmers near Cwmtillery.

Offers are derived from applying an average 33.3% discount to vacant possession value. Farmers claim that the scope for negotiation outside the set reply period of four weeks is extremely limited or non-existent.

Some offers hinge on clawback clauses allowing British Coal to share in any future development value.

Such clauses could extend to any diversification into non-agricultural activity, farmers feared.

Eric Vowles owns 19ha (48 acres) of Gwrhyd Farm and is also a third generation tenant of British Coal on a similar area. He received a "take it or leave it" offer valuing the farm at £1730/ha (£700/acre).

Local farmers put its value closer to £740/ha (£300/acre) with vacant possession, if there were a market at all, said Mr Vowles.

"I felt it was a bit much, so I had to instruct an independent valuer," he said.

Pursued negotiations

Carol Herbert valued it at £988-£1235/ha (£400-£500/acre) and persistently pursued negotiations. "We have had a slight reduction," said Mr Vowles.

Many farmers are worried that the rumoured sale of up to 4047ha (10,000 acres) of common land owned by British Coal in the same area could affect most of the 36 registered graziers.

"I rely totally on the common to run my ewes in the summer and autumn," said Derrick Jones, chairman of the Nantygo and Blainca Commoners Association, which has rights over 3500 acres. He would have to reduce his flock from 800 ewes to 150 if his grazing rights were removed.

British Coal refused to confirm or deny the sale of common land.