The Tenant Farmers Association has again championed the case for
the retention of County Council smallholding estates, this time in
an appearance before Somerset County Council’s Scrutiny Committee.
The TFA’s Chief Executive, George Dunn appeared
at the Scrutiny Committee alongside the local representative of Somerset
County Council farm tenants, David Crab.
“I was pleased to have the opportunity of addressing the members
of the Scrutiny Committee of the County Council directly. This is
not a privilege often afforded to us when local authorities are reviewing
their County Council smallholdings. I took time to stress both the
national and local importance of the county farms estates recognised
by Sir Don Curry’s Policy Commission, Defra Ministers and the
Tenancy Reform Industry Group” said Mr Dunn.
Although county farms are an important financial asset in the hands
of local authorities, they also assist local authorities in meeting
other policy goals. These include environmental protection and enhancement,
the establishment and promotion of local food links, the encouragement
of economic development, provision of public access to the countryside
and for education.
“As we are about to embark upon the national Year of Food and
Farming in the education sector, the TFA would encourage all local
authorities with smallholding estates to consider how they could
use those estates to enhance the education experience for children
within their counties” said Mr Dunn.
“Good management of estates can yield significant financial
benefits. Gloucestershire County Council, for example, has been able
to raise some £20 million over the past ten years from careful,
planned and patient disposals of small parcels of land and yet has
retained a similar size estate over the same period. This is something
which all local authorities should look to replicate” said
“Other areas to investigate include how local authorities can
cooperate in the management of estates to provide economies of scale
and greater opportunities for progression over combined estates.
This is something which I am sure that at least Somerset will be
considering” said Mr Dunn.
There are around 65 County Councils and Unitary Authorities in England
and Wales with smallholding estates. Nationally, they cover some
300,000 acres and provide farms for over 4,000 tenants. Somerset
County Council has around 95 tenants on around 9,000 acres.
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