Views sought over historic farm attraction 'costing taxpayers £168,000 per year'

People are being asked for their views over the future of a county tourist attraction which has been closed since the summer.

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm has been closed since an E.coli outbreak
Acton Scott Historic Working Farm has been closed since an E.coli outbreak

Shropshire Council says Acton Scott Historic Working Farm, which featured on the BBC show Victorian Farm, has been costing taxpayers £168,000 a year since 2014, and is now asking for the public to share their thoughts.

The farm closed in June this year after an E.coli outbreak, and has not reopened since. Councillors were expected to discuss the farm this month, but plans to speak about it at a Cabinet meeting were put back.

Residents and campaigners who live near the farm in Church Stretton wrote to the council last week to insist on a consultation, and one said that it has attracted many to the area over the years.

However, Shropshire Council says visitor numbers have been declining, and it is now costing taxpayers £8.40 per head.

Since the closure, the authority, which has been operating the museum as a tenant since the 1970s, has commissioned a number of reviews of the site including health and safety, repairs and maintenance and staffing. Further staff training and the need for further investment in the site has also been identified.

The working farm museum was the vision of Thomas Acton who established a museum demonstrating farming techniques at the turn of the century before the advent of the internal combustion engine.

The council says visitor numbers peaked at around 45,000 in 2009, when Victorian Farm was on television, but fell sharply the following year and have been in steady decline since. Numbers have averaged around 20,000 per year since 2014.

Shropshire Council says it is facing "an extremely challenging financial future", and it is in this climate that an options appraisal has been undertaken to determine whether an alternative commercially viable model is achievable at the farm.

Clare Featherstone, Shropshire Council’s head of culture, leisure and tourism, said: “Shropshire Council recognises the value Acton Scott holds for many people and is committed to supporting the landowners and the local community over the coming months and we look forward to hearing thoughts and suggestions when we open discussion in the new year.”

Francis Acton, for the Acton Scott Estate added: “It is clear that there is a large community who have a great affection for the historic working farm. The Acton family will support the consultation and work with Shropshire Council to explore future options.”

Anyone wanting to feedback can email actonscottengagement@shropshire.gov.uk.

A report will be taken to Shropshire Council’s Cabinet for decision in spring 2022.

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