Beds, Herts & Bucks

Milton Keynes Thrift Farm saved from closure

Group celebrate Thrift Farm staying open Image copyright Buckinghamshire County Council
Image caption Service users and employees celebrate the news that Thrift Farm will stay open

A farm that helps people with learning difficulties and mental health problems has been saved from closure.

Buckinghamshire County Council said it could not continue to run Thrift Farm in Whaddon, near Milton Keynes, due to a £304,000 overspend in 2017-18.

It will be taken over by a new company formed by Mead Open Farm and Kids Play Childcare.

It will continue to provide an adult day service and remain open to the public with a cafe and shop.

Image copyright Julia Saunders-Fern
Image caption Thrift Farm has been running for more than 40 years

In February, the council said the farm, which had an annual budget of about £430,000, was not "sustainable".

Almost 7,000 people signed a petition calling for the farm to be saved.

Lin Hazel, council cabinet member, said: "We would like to pay tribute to all who campaigned to keep the farm open and worked with us to find a new provider."

Ms Hazel said the council was "confident" Kids Play Childcare and Mead Open Farm were "the best options to secure a bright future for Thrift Farm".

The council said it will continue to pay for current service users to attend the farm, but it will no longer have to pay for the general upkeep and running of the site.

Image caption The farm runs a supported employment scheme for adults with learning difficulties

Kids Play Childcare has more than 18 years experience "providing childcare in Ofsted registered settings" while Mead Open Farm in Bedfordshire operates a "well-established children's farm welcoming 230,000 visitors each year", the council said.

Matt Heast, owner of Mead Open Farm, said: "Thrift Farm has its own special charm and it's important the changes we make retain this."

Paul Sharp, managing director of Kids Play, which runs nurseries across south east and east England, said he wanted to "maintain the uniqueness" of the farm.

Daniel, a service user at the farm, said it was a "relief" the farm would stay open.

A meeting is due to take place this month to discuss the next steps with service users and their families.

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