Somerset tenant farmers sent sale letters

  • Published

Tenant farmers on Somerset County Council's farms have been sent letters telling them whether or not their farms will be sold off.

The authority wants to sell about two thirds of its £40m estate in light of anticipated government cuts.

Many farmers say they are unhappy with the plan and the way it has been carried out.

The authority proposes to sell 35 farms and keep 27. A formal decision is expected on 18 October.

The council said farmers will be able to continue farming on the land, even if it is sold.

But some farmers say the uncertainty makes it difficult to plan their future.

'Down the pan'

Ben Smith, who has been a tenant farmer since 2006, said: "It's very unsettling. At first we didn't know whether our tenancies were secure or not because I'm on a farm business tenancy for an intended term of 10 years.

"We were of the understanding that the tenancies would maybe roll on at the end of the intended term.

"There has been a lot of investment by myself into my farm and many of the other tenants have done the same.

"I've worked towards getting a council farm for probably the last 10 to 15 years. It's just all gone down the pan."

Councillor David Huxtable, cabinet member for resources, said: "It has been a long and difficult process, but tough times have forced tough decisions.

"We have listened to the views and concerns of the farmers, and have had to balance this with the savings that have to be made.

"The farms are worth a total of more than £40m and that is a huge asset for the council and a huge subsidy for the farmers.

"As a council with an anticipated budget deficit of £75m, we have had to make a very difficult choice."

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