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20  February

Work to begin on council farm sale policy

08/12/2023 @ 01:29
Work on a new policy to deal with the Powys coiuncil's farms estate will start soon after the Liberal Democrats supported an opposition motion on the issue.

Councillors debated a motion put forward by Conservative, Cllr Amanda Jenner, to stop selling off any more county farms this year.

The motion also called for a new “transparent and scrutinised policy” on sales of county farms.

It follows the issues surrounding the sale of 218 acres of the council’s farm estate in the village of Leighton, near Welshpool which was revealed in September.

The buyers are believed to be Welshpool-based waste and recycling firm Potters who are said to be willing to offer £5 million for the land which is above the valuation of £4.13 million.

The report was discussed by the Liberal Democrat/Labour cabinet in confidential session and due to the lack of transparency and scrutiny of the proposal has been criticised by opposition councillors ever since.

Conservative Cllr Adrian Jones said: “We all like a plan and this is all we are asking for; we can’t stop farm sales.”

He pointed out that the policy had last been looked at in 2018 when making around £1 million annually out of the estate was the target, and now more than £10 million could be made from sales in one year.

Cllr Jones added that “20 plus” farm tenancies are due for renewal next year – and wondered what sitting tenants and those hoping to take over a lease would think.

Independent for Powys, Cllr Ed Jones said: “Council farms were set up post-World War One by our grandfathers.

“The old saying goes one generation builds it, one generation holds it, and one generation blows it.

“Which does this cabinet want to be associated with?

“I want the farms to there for generations to come.

“What moral right have the cabinet got to sell high value assets without putting it to full council?”

Liberal Democrat cabinet member for a connected Powys, Liberal Democrat Cllr Jake Berriman explained that a working group was going to be set up to help cabinet review the council farm estate policy. Scrutiny would take place separately.

Cllr Berriman said he was “content” to go along with a moratorium on farm sales for the rest of the financial year.

“What I can’t accept in here because is the constitutional clash,” he said.

“Policies are for cabinet approval to be scrutinises in a proper way.”

Liberal Democrat, council leader, Cllr James Gibson-Watt, added that he was happy to support the motion as the policy is “out of date.”

Cllr Gibson-Watt said: “The lack of investment over many years has left it in a parlous state; some farms are in very poor condition.

“This needs to be a policy the whole council can support.”

Chairwoman of the Economy Residents and Communities scrutiny committee, Liberal Democrat Cllr Angela Davies, said: “The committee made a recommendation that the policy and procedures needed to be tidied up and that’s all this is asking.”

Independent group’s Cllr Gareth D Jones formally seconded Cllr Jenner’s motion.

Cllr Jones said: “The recent events surround various disposals of assets have had one positive thing: it galvanised and united the opposition groups into getting this policy in place.”

A vote was then taken, and the motion was supported by 49 councillors, five voted against the motion and two abstained.






By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporting Service