More than 20% of Staffordshire county farms estate for sale

More than 20% of Staffordshire County Council’s farms estate, comprising 688ha and 16 let farm holdings, is set to be sold off.

All the council’s farm tenants were notified of the sell-off plans in autumn 2018, and now the council has identified which farms will be sold.

Those affected will be offered the opportunity to buy their tenanted farms.

But if they opt not to buy, the units will be sold on with them staying as sitting tenants.

Estate managers will meet those tenants soon to discuss the next steps, the council has announced.

See also: County council farms – how many are left?

More than 2,670ha of the farms estate, comprising 67 farms, will remain, providing opportunities for new entrants and young farmers looking to gain experience.

The council believes up to £20m could be generated by the sale of “non-core” (peripheral, smaller, less easy to modernise) parts of the estate, which will be invested in the county’s health, care and infrastructure.

Part of the income raised will also be reinvested in the county farms estate.

Mark Winnington, Cabinet member for economic growth, said: “Unlike some other local authorities, over the years we have invested in our farm estate to keep it viable and to maximise efficiency and value.

“As part of that, we regularly review our holdings and we will continue to invest in the future.

“Our farms offer commercially-minded, aspirational young people a foothold in the industry and our tenants make a valuable contribution to Staffordshire’s rural economy.”

See also: What to do if your landlord decides to sell the farm

A total of 897ha were sold or otherwise disposed of by 22 smallholdings authorities between April 2016 and March 2017, according to latest figures released in the 67th Annual Report to Parliament on Local Authority Smallholdings in England.

Over the same period the year previous, the total area of county council farms in England shrank by more than 1,000ha.

The Tenant Farmers Association chief executive George Dunn said it is always a massive loss when county councils sell off their farm holdings.

“Up to now, Staffordshire has had a vibrant and large county farms estate and we fear that this piecemeal approach to sales will jeopardise the sustainability of the wider estate, potentially hastening its demise,” said Mr Dunn.

“Local authorities must take a much more proactive approach to their management policies in order to provide important opportunities for new entrants and contribute to the wider local authority functions.”

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