Shropshire smallholdings seek agent
They have their origins in a late Victorian election pledge to provide 'three acres and a cow' for landless tenant farmers.
Council Smallholdings have over more than 200 years given young people the chance of the first step on the ladder in farming.
Shropshire council, which owns almost 700 areas of agricultural land, is seeking a land agent to manage its smallholdings and the agricultural land that it owns. The agent will manage the land for the next three years, beginning 1 April 2019.
The council's agricultural estate of around 692 acres includes 16 freehold smallholdings ranging from under eight acres to just over 100 acres, and three cottages. It also has three leasehold properties.
The smallholdings, or County Farms, grew from the Victorian agricultural depression. Radical Liberal MP Joseph Chamberlain stood for election on the promise of “three acres and a cow” for landless tenant farmers. This grew into the scheme where councils would buy up land and lease it out to small tenant farmers on cheap rents.
Government Acts in 1892, 1908 and 1925 created County Farms or County Smallholdings.
Since 2005, the council’s policy has allowed individual smallholdings to be sold as they became vacant, sold to the existing tenants or direct descendants on request, or allowed tenants to surrender their tenancy.
A later amendment to this policy in 2016 allowed the sale of smallholdings with sitting tenants on the open market, individually, as a whole or in lots.
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s deputy Leader, and Cabinet member for corporate and commercial support, said that since the introduction of this policy, eight smallholdings have been sold.
It is the remaining smallholdings and cottages that the council owns that a land agent is being sought to manage.
“Shropshire is a rural county, with agriculture being a predominant employer and major part of the economy.
“By employing a land agent with the right expertise to manage the properties, we can continue to provide opportunities for people who want to get into farming.”