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Fresh commitment to county farms made by Suffolk County Council amid sale fears

PUBLISHED: 16:30 20 June 2019

A cross-party task force has looked at Suffolk County Council's county farms estate. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A cross-party task force has looked at Suffolk County Council's county farms estate. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A vow has been made to keep county farms in Suffolk for the next decade, with farms being bought or sold only in "specific circumstances".

Robert Whiting said more resources were needed to invest in Suffolk's county farms.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNRobert Whiting said more resources were needed to invest in Suffolk's county farms. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk County Council's cabinet agreed to adopt its county farms estate policy on Tuesday, which aims to safeguard the future of the 92 farms until 2029.

It follows work by a cross-party task force to assess the county's vast 12,500 acre estate, in which it was recommended that more management resources were put into the farms, the estate remains within the council's control, and purchases or sales of land only happening in specific circumstances.

It follows fears that land could be sold, which has happened in other counties including Norfolk.

Conservative councillor Robert Whiting, deputy cabinet member for property and chairman of the policy development panel (PDP), said: "It [the PDP] decided against that [sale] because of the loss of the capital value by putting it straight onto the marketplace, and would have prevented us having future opportunities in terms of planning."

Richard Smith said the way county farms were run was important. Picture; SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILRichard Smith said the way county farms were run was important. Picture; SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

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He added that the council needed to "expand the management resource to manage these sites more effectively".

Among the other recommendations adopted were assessing renewable energy schemes and investment in the farms where appropriate.

Cabinet member for finance and assets Richard Smith said that Suffolk County Council was the third largest landowner in Suffolk, and the way it ran its county farms was important.

Liberal Democrat councillor Penny Otton praised the positive report amid fears that land could be sold off like other authorities have. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLiberal Democrat councillor Penny Otton praised the positive report amid fears that land could be sold off like other authorities have. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

He added: "We nibble away at the edge of the estate where we see the opportunity to build houses, but despite nibbling away at the edge of the estate the 12,500 acres has remained roughly stable over the last 10 years."

In May, Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said that with the council's position as such a large landowner it would be looking to help support much-needed house building in the county. However, it is understood this was more likely with other plots of land it owns - particularly vacant ones - rather than county farms.

Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group leader Penny Otton said: "We were slightly fearful of what other counties have done, i.e. selling them off, so I thank the council for this really positive report."

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