Council agrees its approach to farms
11 October 2018
Our Executive committee has this week agreed to adopt its Farms Estate Plan. We manage around 4,700 acres of public farmland across the area. In June this year, we undertook an eight-week public consultation seeking public feedback on our proposed approach to management our farms.
A policy had been drafted to shape the way the local authority manages its farms estate over a 10-year period. Councils have owned farms for decades, and they’re still important today. They allow councils to control the growth of towns, and provide a source of income, food and employment. Legislation also means that local authorities have to provide chances for people with agricultural experience to farm. Alongside this, there are wider public benefits to the council owning the land. These include providing greater public access to the countryside; protection and conservation of the natural environment and wildlife; and greater control over the pace and type of development in rural areas.
The consultation found that the Farms Estate is definitely viewed in a positive light, and that the farms are seen as a valuable asset for the area. Respondents felt that the most important aspects of the approach were to enable new people to get into farming, and to enable public access to the countryside. Environmental benefits and encouraging biodiversity were the second most important issues for respondents.
Councillor Eugene Ghent, Executive Member for Assets at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “We needed a plan for our 4,700 acres of farmland. Our agreed approach is to have a more manageable smaller number of farms of a larger size, with more proactive management and a diversified mix of farming. We will also be looking at buying more land to ensure we have farmland for future generations to benefit from. This approachwill help ensure that the council meets the challenges and opportunities offered by the rural economy over the next 10 years.”