A Council has been blasted for its ‘heartbreaking’ decision to sell a farm to a private bidder.
Pembrokeshire Council was accused of allowing ‘gazumping’ by campaigners after Trecadwgan Farm, near Solva, was purchased at a public auction on March 4 for £757,000, having initially been put up for sale in July 2019 for £450,000.
Taking to Twitter, the community group formed to save the 11 acre property said it was ‘heartbroken and grieving’, as the organisation had planned to transform the estate into a mixed holding to produce environmentally sustainable food.
Despite the group’s initial offer, which was accepted by the council, it was later outbid in December 2019 and January of this year, which prompted the council’s decision to hold a public auction.
The move was criticised by the group as the deadline for bids had already passed but the Council claimed the condition of the farm meant it was not up to a legally rentable standard.
The council therefore urged it was able to obtain the best possible price for the land.
Gareth Chapman, a member of the community group, who challenged the move, said: “Under the General Disposal Consent (Wales) included in the Local Government Act, the council could have sold the farm to the community group at less than full value [on the basis that the disposal would contribute to the improvement of the economic and environmental well-being of the area].”
Mr Chapman urged the community project fulfilled these obligations but highlighted the council ‘point-blank refused’.
George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) said the auction drew attention to the selling of county farms across the UK.
He said: “This underlines the need for local authorities to be required to have a strategic asset management plan for their county farms estates signed off by Defra or the Welsh Government.
“County farms are national assets in the hands of local authorities and they should be put to the highest standards of ensuring best value in the way that they manage those holdings within the context of having an overarching, strategic plan.”
Mr Dunn warned too many decisions were taken on an ad-hoc basis and this ‘simply was not good enough for such important assets’.