Cornwall Council has pledged to invest £16.4 million into its county farms estate as part of a new strategy to enhance environment and improve farm tenants’ living conditions.
According to the Council Farms report by the council’s Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee (NOSC), the 20 year strategy is focused on ensuring Cornwall has a publicly owned estate for food production, an entry point for new farmers and guaranteed provisions for securing social and environmental benefits.
Coun Adam Paynter and deputy leader of Cornwall Council’s ‘Council Farms Estate Plan’ said: “Capital investment across the estate to resolve back log maintenance and decent home standards across all retained holdings for county farm tenants is imperative.
“Families are living in these homes, which are still not up to a decent home standard - this is disgraceful in this day and age.”
The report set out plans to sell off a number of residential and farm buildings with an estimated value of £5.2 million.
This would leave a net capital funding requirement to be fulfilled by the council of £11.3 million over a 10 year period to 2030.
Mr Paynter backed this investment, saying county farms are a ‘service’ and should be treated as a ‘community asset rather than a commercial asset’.
He added: “County farms continue to put funds back into the council as well as investment, putting £1 million back into the funding pot to be used for public services – it washes its own face.
“The food and drink sector is also incredibly important for Cornwall, given its processing capacity – investing in the farms estate is therefore incredibly important for connecting farming and food production.”
Chris Cardell, NFU tenant spokesman, echoed this.
He said: “It is good to see the council have laid down a long term strategy to invest in its county farms estate and maintain the acreage.”
The report also allocated £1 million to support Environmental Growth activities, which will advocate the increase in woodland from 300 acres to 1,050 acres to reduce carbon emissions.
Mr Paynter said an alignment of the service to meet the Defra position on supporting council farms was necessary, but stated there were currently ‘no details of a future scheme’.
Former Defra secretary Michael Gove had promised to announce a new package of support for county farms owned by councils last year.
Mr Paynter added: “Cornwall council will be positioned to meet the scheme should it come forward.”