William Powell, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for Mid & West Wales and Spokesperson for Rural Affairs, has urged the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans AM to safeguard local authority farms and smallholdings in Wales from potential sell-off.
William raised the issue during a recent scrutiny session with the Deputy Minister, and spoke of the vital resource which local authority smallholdings provide in enabling young people who aspire to enter the farming industry to have access to the land.
Commenting, William Powell said:
"Just the other side of Offa's Dyke in Herefordshire, the decision by the Tory-led Council to sell-off the authority's smallholdings is having a devastating impact. A number of families have been served Notices to Quit by the Council, and there are serious concerns for those affected because in many cases they have nowhere else to go, and no other means of livelihood.
"One of the benefits of local authority owned farms, is that they give those who might not otherwise have been able to consider a career in farming, the ability to do so. Farming remains an almost exclusively inherited occupation, and this is one way in which this can be addressed. To see increasing numbers of Councils choosing to sell-off their land as they look to cut costs is really worrying and I urge the Labour Government to do all it can to stop this happening in Wales.
"Under the Agriculture Act 1970, all Councils in England and Wales must have regard to the general interests of agriculture and of good estate management, and thereby make it their general aim to provide opportunities for people to be farmers on their own account by letting holdings to them. I hope the Labour Government will work with local authorities in Wales to ensure a full understanding of and commitment to this duty."
NFU Deputy President Minette Batters, commenting previously on Herefordshire Council's stance, said:
"We are deeply concerned for those farmers who have been given Notice to Quit their businesses so soon after the initial announcement. It should now be a priority for the local council to provide those issued with these notices clear and transparent information about the expected timescales involved. 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; to 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."
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