It was today drawn to the attention of all at the inaugural meeting of Somerset Land and Food, held at Great Bow Wharf, Langport, that the Conservative administration at County Hall, Taunton, will tomorrow (Tuesday) decide upon a proposal to put up for sale, as of immediate effect, the Entire County Farm Estate. Alternative proposals, including the hastening of the asset disposal process, are also due to be assessed.
This is a disgraceful and thoroughly unacceptable proposal which was met with disbelief at the meeting! This supposed Transition Authority is systematically tearing up the good work of the previous administration (who were no angels!) in a ridiculous bid to slash budgets. Officers have been warned to 'fear the worst'!
To scrap the County Farm Estate is to rid Somerset of what are, essentially, community assets. It is to tear up 100 years of heritage and sell-off, to the highest bidder, the land in which the Council has been entrusted over the century by generations of farmers. It is land given to their protection so that they can ensure a continuing lineage of young Somerset farmers into the future.
The word from within SCC is that the administration has decided to cut back services to the bone, stripping away all but the statutory services. County Farms, it has been said, are to be sold to the highest bidder with the intention in most cases to be used for future development land - especially those bordering towns and villages, which many do. Farms will be sold with our without tenants attached.
Somerset Land and Food objects strongly to the proposals and is urgently seeking consultation on the issue. Those represented at the meeting included Somerset Community Food, Wessex Community Assets, the Soil Association, Somerset Primary Care Trust, South West Food and Drink, Somerset Market Towns Forum, Transition Somerset as well as various local groups, Mendip Housing Ltd, Glastonbury Community Development Trust, Sharpham Park, The Ecos Trust & many more.
Out of interest, the Conservative administration were last week approached by the BBC for a feature on County Farms. The NFU have only very recently released a report praising their worth and seeking to protect them from asset-stripping authorities, thus the media attention. David Huxtable, the member in charge of the County Farms Estate, initially agreed to appear, but then later pulled out due to the lack of a clear policy in Somerset. This still has the potential of getting national coverage at this stage.
Again, it is time to stand up and be counted. Please write to your local member, and to the local papers expressing opposition. Explore any contacts you have with other levels of government and the media.
We will find out shortly what the verdict is and what the next steps to take are.
Here is a link to the NFU report on County Farms.http://www.nfuonline.com/x43591.xml
To visit the Transition Somerset wiki please follow the link http://transitiontowns.org/Somerset
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