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Council to stop running Shropshire working farm visitor attraction

One of the county's longest-running visitor attractions will no longer be run by Shropshire Council as the authority looks to save money.

Shropshire Council will no longer run the Acton Scott Historic Working Farm.
Shropshire Council will no longer run the Acton Scott Historic Working Farm.

Shropshire Council will surrender the lease for Acton Scott Working Farm, near Church Stretton, which it has operated for the past 47 years.

The farm, which demonstrates historic farming techniques, has been closed since June last year.

It will now return to the landowner, The Acton Scott Estate, which has said it will keep people informed of plans for the site, and when it will reopen.

Councillor Rob Gittins, Shropshire Council's cabinet member responsible for culture, said the site was losing £168,000 a year – costing the authority £8.40 per visitor.

Shropshire Council held a public consultation on its future and the recommendation to surrender the lease was approved at the council’s cabinet meeting on December 14.

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm

A statement from the council said: "The settlement allows the owners to invest in the essential infrastructure improvements required to support endeavours to open a new historic attraction."

Councillor Gittins said: “Shropshire Council has always placed great value on Acton Scott Historic Working Farm, recognising its importance socially, educationally and in terms of the visitor economy, and we know that it is held in great regard by the public.

“Unfortunately, along with many other local authorities Shropshire Council is facing additional pressures on its budgets, and with the attraction operating at a deficit of £168,000 per annum, the Shropshire taxpayer has been subsidising the running costs of the farm at a cost of £8.40 per visitor.

“The decision to surrender the lease, which still has 16 years left to run, has been reached after many months of deliberation and negotiation with the estate and we are pleased, having explored many options, to have reached a mutually satisfactory conclusion.

“We wish the owners well as they take the site forward according to their vision for the historic working farm.”

Francis Acton, speaking on behalf of the Acton Scott Estate said: “We are pleased that an agreement has been reached in principle, and we will now focus on essential maintenance work to the buildings and farmland. At the same time we will explore options for the future in accordance with the vision of my late father and taking into account the findings of the public consultation. This will not be easy, as we seek to ensure that the site can be financially sustainable over the medium term.

“It is likely that an application will be made to the Charity Commission to establish a not-for-profit organisation to run the attraction, and the support of the many people who have valued their experience at Acton Scott will be essential for its long-term success.

“We will keep people informed of progress, including when the site is likely to reopen and how members of the public can get involved in the future.”

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm was the vision of Thomas Acton who wanted a site which could demonstrate farming techniques from the past.

It is anticipated the surrender of the lease will take effect from the end of the financial year, in March 2023.

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