The Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed and endorsed Sir Don Curry’s address to the Annual General Meeting of the Association of Chief Estates Surveyors and Property Managers in Local Government (ACES) in his capacity as the Chairman of DEFRA’s Sustainable Food and Farming Delivery Group.
TFA National Chairman Greg Bliss said “Sir Don’s remarks in support of County Council smallholdings were particularly pertinent as this year marks their 100th anniversary. He has reminded the local authority owners of these farms that they are an important national and local asset that needs to be cherished rather than squandered”.
Sir Don highlighted the significant reduction in the number of farms being let and the amount of farm land that has been sold by local authorities over the past 30 years.
“It is a great sadness that about one third of farmland let as smallholdings in the mid 1980’s has been sold by local authorities. A lot of this selling has been the result of knee jerk reactions to financial crises elsewhere within local authorities. This type of selling rarely provides long-run, best value to council tax payers and has been devastating to the operation of the farming ladder as it has removed many opportunities for new entrants to get into farming. I very much support Sir Don’s view that local authorities should make their selling decisions in the context of broader and more comprehensive asset management plans which look to achieve best value through planned disposals for commercial or residential development whilst continuing to invest in the structure of the farm estates,” said Mr Bliss.
“It is also important that local authorities work with their tenant farmers to ensure that they can progress to bigger holdings on the same estate or in the private sector. The statutory purpose for local authority farms is to provide opportunities for individuals who want to be farmers on their own account. Too often new entrants are given short lengths of term and are then provided with no assistance with progression. There is little point in giving a new entrant a 5 year tenancy if only to terminate it at the end of the term without considering what happens to them next,” said Mr Bliss.
“We shouldn’t forget either that local authority farms provide wider benefits to the local communities within which they are situated including access and recreation, learning outside the classroom, management of the greenbelt and assisting with the management of flood risks to name but a few. These are quite often lost when the farms are sold off,” said Mr Bliss.
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