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Powys farm estate will not be sold off

Created on 29/11/2018 @ 10:01
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Powys County Council farming and smallholdings estate will not be sold off as councillors say its a viable asset.

At yesterday's Cabinet meeting Council Leader, Cllr Rosemarie Harris, stressed she wanted to assure tenants that they have no need to worry as the review of farms policy was discussed.

Tenants and Powys County Council will be looking to do more to diversify and it looks likely that the council will invest more money on estate upkeep.

Cllr Harris said: “The County Farms Estate provides opportunities for young people wanting to get into farming who perhaps don’t have a family farm,

“We are very proud of the fact that we can provide this opportunity.

“We may sell the odd house with an acre or so, but there are no plans to sell the estate, this document does not deal with that sort of thing.

“It would have to be a budget discussion for the whole cabinet and that’s certainly not on the table. We do expect the estate to earn its keep.”

“We have invested about £2 million in recent times and we need to invest more in farm buildings and houses.”

Estates officer Natasha Morgan told the cabinet that the Farms produce £700,000 a year and that the longer maintenance is left before it is done the more it will cost.

But the plan has come in for criticism

Earlier this year the Learning Skills and Economy (LSE) Scrutiny Committee discussed the plan and believed that alternatives to the status quo needed to be looked at.

This included a recommendation that the cabinet: “make clear the contribution that County Farms are expected to make to central capital receipts in the immediate and medium term.”

Recent budget policy changes mean that selling assets such as land, can fund transformation projects.

The farms' policy was supposed to be discussed on 6 November but had been postponed.

Cllr Harris, said: “I delayed bringing this farms policy because I wanted all those scrutiny comments addresses.”

The report now has a detailed rebuttal of the scrutiny recommendations and including a requirement for tenants to invest, rationalising the estate by selling surplus property would continue.

It is estimated that this would raise £6 million over time.

Cllr David Jones, who chaired the LSE committee, said: “Scrutiny welcomes the changes that have been made.

“There are things that have changed in this report that is all to the good.

Cllr Jones added that the changes to how capital receipts can be used to fund transformation had confused the committee at the time as there had been no mention of it in the original report.

Cllr Jones said that Cabinet had to make clear that any money from sales could also be used on transformational project.

Cllr Stephen Hayes, portfolio holder for adult services, added that it was “very pleasing” to hear the estate was producing a surplus as Powys was helping people get in to farming and creating “start-up” businesses.

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