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Council continues its commitment to farming in the county


Gloucestershire County Council is planning to offer tenant farmers the rare opportunity to buy their land at the same time as investing in revitalising remaining farms.

The county council's proposed 2016 Strategic Estate Plan, which will be discussed in this month's cabinet, outlines the possibility of reducing its rural land to 5,600 acres from 6,400 acres.

Currently the county council owns 50 farms, by reducing this to 40 the county council is providing the opportunity for some long standing farmers to buy the land and home that they've lived in for many years and others to end a tenancy agreement early, simply and hassle free.

The council has been speaking to the farmers and farming unions for several months and agreements are already in place pending cabinet approval.

Some of the money raised from the sales would be reinvested into the remaining farms. Currently the maintenance of the tenant farms is the responsibility of the tenants, now the council is proposing to take on that responsibility to rejuvenate the properties and land and introduce modern technology, helping the tenants develop and explore new methods of farming.

This will open up possibilities to farmers with a variety of experience and farming assets and potentially create more revenue for the rural economy.

Throughout January and March 2016 the council spoke with farmers in the county, as well as farming unions and association, and asked for their views and comments on the proposed plan.

The majority of feedback supported the strategy and agreed that there was a need to sell some rural property so that the funds generated can be invested into improving farms and contribute towards council savings targets.

Other proposals detailed in the plan include the need for a simple and hassle free way for tenants to leave their renting agreement, if they're affected by the properties sold, and the council's continued commitment to keeping the remaining land maintained and in good condition.

An integral aspect of the strategy is to make sure that there are clear development opportunities for the remaining 5,600 acres. This means that the county council will continue to invest in the farms that aren't sold and fix any backlogs of repairs; as well as develop new relationships with farm tenants and the wider rural community to help boost the rural economy.

The money that would be generated from the sell of the 800 acres would be reinvested in to core council services that offer support to some of the most vulnerable adults and children in Gloucestershire.

Cllr Ray Theodoulou, cabinet member for finance, said: "Unlike other authorities which have chosen to sell off all their farm land, Gloucestershire County Council is still, and will continue to be, committed to agriculture.

"It is a very important part of the county's heritage and economy as well as being a large contributor to the country's food production. The hard work done by our farmers is inspiring and we truly believe that this plan will make the future of farming more sustainable.

"All the money that is made from the sale of the land will go back into the council's budget for its vital core service. We're also hopeful that the land sold will create much needed employment opportunities and be part of the solution to the shortfall of housing within Gloucestershire." 

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