People who have no history or background in farming are now taking up a life in agriculture thanks directly to the Peterborough City Council Rural Estate Action Plan, councillors have been told.
Members of the Growth, Environment & Resources Scrutiny Committee were presented with a report by Bridget Slade, Peterborough City Council Rural Estate manager, in which she highlighted six full time holdings of approximately 400 acres each with 10 year tenancies.
Overall the council owns some 3,000 acres locally, with tenants paying rent at commercial rates.
“It may surprise some people to know that Peterborough City Council owns land and then rents it out to would-be farmers”, she explained.
“But with competitive rent that is financially sustainable, and the more desirable small holdings to farm of approximately 300-400 acres, our farmers have the best of both worlds.”
Potential starter tenants are expected to submit a business plan, financial forecast for the first two years and a record of experience to the Rural Estate manager who then determines a shortlist of applicants.
New entrants are given a 10 year term with a five-year break clause in order to give them every possible start to grow their new business.
Cllr John Fox commented: “It is encouraging to see that we provide an entry into agriculture and farming in this way and that our tenant farmers pay a good rent for the land we lease to them, but what happens when there are problems with the animals or the scourge of fly-tipping? Who takes care of those problems and who pays?”
Bridget Slade replied: “All of our farmers are responsible for the animals and the land that they lease, and so if there is a problem with fly-tipping for example they must note and report it to the police and of course us as landlords, but the costs are mostly borne by the tenant.”
Chairman Cllr June Stokes wanted to know: “How much in terms of revenue versus cost does the council get for these farms?” to which Ms Slade replied: “We nearly always retain the land to sell if we wanted to, or sell it at a competitive rate to the tenant, but I would prefer to think that encouraging agriculture and rural activities is in the public interest and provides a very real and valuable service.”
Robert Alexander, Local Democracy Reporting Service