Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire farmers urge rethink on tenancies

Councillors in Gloucestershire are being urged to rethink plans which could see thousands of acres of farmland sold off.

In an attempt to cut £108m over the next four years, Gloucestershire County Council said it was looking to sell 38 of its 88 council-owned properties.

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) said it was concerned this would reduce the opportunities for young farmers.

Gloucestershire County Council said no decision had yet been made.

People are able to lease the council-owned farmland to run their own farms but the TFA is concerned that fewer people will be able to do this if farmland is sold off.

'Belt-tightening'

Councillor Ray Theodoulou, cabinet member for finance, said the size of the cuts meant it could not ringfence certain kinds of activity.

"We are forced to look at everything we do [and] all the services we provide because we're going through a round of belt-tightening," he said.

TFA chief executive George Dunn said the county had previously been held as an example of how county farms should be managed.

"It now seems to have abandoned the hallmarks of good estate management in a knee-jerk reaction which will not provide best value for the council tax payers of the county," he said.

Sarah Olney and her husband have been working on the council-owned Manor Farm for the past 19 years as tenants.

Although her farm is not under threat by the proposals, Ms Olney said she was worried about the opportunities for young farmers.

"We both always wanted to farm but didn't have the money to buy land. We heard there were opportunities on council farms and managed to save for about 10 years to stock the farm.

"For many people at agricultural colleges now [tenancies] are one of the only opportunities to get into the business if you are not born into land or inherit it.

"I would make the plea that in this consultation the council takes the long-term view because once it is gone it is gone forever."

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