Tenant farmers and other stakeholders are being urged to make their views known on the future of council smallholdings in Shropshire.

Faced with increased pressure on public sector funding and the need to prioritise expenditure, Shropshire Council is considering options for the future of its 24 smallholdings, which range from 1.74ha to 36.43ha and cover a total acreage of 410ha.

The six-week consultation sets out three options and the council is keen to hear the opinions of its tenant farmers and other interested parties.

The options are:

  • Continue the current policy of retaining the smallholdings but allow individual smallholdings to be sold as they become vacant, or to be sold to existing tenants on request
  • Sell the smallholdings on the open market to the highest bidder, as a whole or in lots
  • Dispose of the smallholdings estate to an organisation that wishes to maintain it and to secure access to farming for future generations.

“Each option has its advantages and disadvantages for both existing tenants and the council,” said Louise Roberts, a rural chartered surveyor with Halls in Shrewsbury.

Read also: County council farm tenancies: Still an option?

“If option one is selected the position for current tenants will remain the same and they will be able to acquire their smallholdings, giving security to their families for future generations. However, the council has warned that the backlog of repairs will grow ever longer as spending pressures increase.

“If option two is selected, tenants will have a new landlord and, whilst their tenancies will be protected to an extent, there is no means of guaranteeing what will happen to the farms in the future. There is a risk that tenants will be unable to acquire the smallholding if they wish to at a later date.

“If option three is selected, the council believes the future of the smallholdings will be more secure and the tenant’s position will remain the same, as the terms of the current tenancy agreements continue. However, again there is a risk that a tenant’s existing right to request to purchase the smallholding will be removed.”

According to Ms Roberts, Shropshire council’s current preference was option three, but it was eager to hear the opinions of existing tenants and stakeholders.

The results of the consultation, which will run until 31 October, will be considered at a council meeting on 18 December.

Opinions are best registered via the council’s online survey at www.shropshire.gov.uk/get-involved/smallholdings

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