IN THE MOST significant sale of arable land with vacant possession for almost a decade, three blocks of highly productive land covering 4624 acres in Essex, with a range of farmhouses and cottages, are up for sale.

Known and farmed collectively as the Essex Farms estate, they are being sold by the Co-operative Group Pension Fund, which acquired the portfolio 20 years ago.

The portfolio is distinct from that owned by the Co-operative Group itself and is the only area of farmland owned by the pension fund.

It is farmed by Farmcare, the Co-op‘s farming arm, which will continue to do so until otherwise required, partly to maintain eligibility for the Single Farm Payment.

The sale has been announced as a result of a decision taken by the pension fund trustees that the farmland no longer fits its commercial property portfolio.

According to a statement from the Co-op, the proceeds of the sale will be reinvested elsewhere by the fund.

The three blocks comprise Berners Hall with 1671 acres, farmed in conjunction with 834 bare acres (apart from a general purpose building) at Paslow Farm, and Stebbings Farm with 2119 acres north of Great Dunmow.

With land in the area changing hands between £2600 and £3000/acre, the guide price for the portfolio as a whole is likely to be around £15.7m, in eight lots.

Strutt & Parker and Smiths Gore are acting as joint selling agents.