A council has been asked to show mercy on farming families facing eviction after it decided to sell off its portfolio of agricultural holdings.
Herefordshire Council’s Cabinet decided at its meeting in December to have a planned disposal of its farms estate but assurances were given to tenants that they would be looked after.
The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) said it was concerned about the speed in which the authority was progressing with serving tenants’ Notices to Quit when little information had been given to the tenants concerned.
Five families are currently affected.
TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “The council is steam-rolling ahead with no regard for the impact of its actions on farm tenants and with no clear plan.
“The TFA has been trying to engage with Coun Harry Bramer, the member responsible for county farms, but so far he has been unwilling to meet us.
“We need to know more about the timetable to which the council is working, what the draft disposal plan looks like and when the council will be ready to have a meeting.”
The TFA has also accused councillors of ‘misleading statements’ and ‘acting beyond their remit’.
“At the meeting of the council’s Cabinet in December, various assurances were given which are not being followed through”, said Mr Dunn.
“The Cabinet meeting minutes say the council leader ‘emphasised rumours that people would be turned out of homes was not accurate and whilst there would be some changes, it was arguably to the advantage of tenants’.
“How can the service of notices to quit on these five families be advantageous to them? The council is turning people out of their homes without any recourse and is reneging on the assurance that this would not happen.”
NFU deputy president Minette Batters said the union was ’deeply concerned’ for those farmers affected.
“It should now be a priority for the local council to provide those issued with these notices with clear and transparent information about the expected timescales involved with this process," she said.
"They have acknowledged they have a duty of care to treat their tenants fairly. They need to do this with respect and with an understanding of the complete lifestyle change that this decision will mean for many of them.
“We urge the council to give further assurances regarding tenant welfare; do more to help their tenants through this process and express an understanding of the profound impact of receiving these notices just two months after the initial decision was made.”
A spokesman for the council said it was in the process of issuing notices to tenants varying from 12 to 22 months.
He said officers were continuing to meet with and support farm tenants ‘and will also discuss with individual tenants the possibility of them purchasing their smallholding’.
The council’s deputy leader, Coun Patricia Morgan, added: “As funding becomes ever tighter, the notices have been issued to ensure certainty for tenants and we will support tenants to ensure they receive the support and help they require.
“A full disposal plan for the structured sale of the smallholdings will be reviewed by cabinet in April, to ensure the best possible value for money for the local community.”