Farmland sale gets under way in Herefordshire

image captionSteve Clayton said farming was all he'd ever wanted to do but cannot afford to buy the land he farmed

A council has begun to sell off about 4,000 acres of farmland to raise money to fund other services.

Herefordshire Council hopes to raise more than £40m by selling off 59 lots of land ranging in price from £175,000 to £2m.

Steve Clayton, a tenant farmer at Rowleston for 30 years, said the move could end his "farming livelihood".

The council said it must fund the "growing bill" for caring for elderly and vulnerable people in the county.

Harry Bramer, cabinet member for Contracts and Assets, said: "The council is committed to its duty of care to the local community and to tenants. As we find alternative ways to fund the statutory services we have to provide, we need to prioritise which activities the council can support.

"The smallholdings disposal plan will help us ensure best value for money for taxpayers."

The Conservative-run council, which is keeping seven small holdings, offered tenants financial help to get advice on buying their farms.

But Mr Clayton, who said his farmland may be worth £1m, was among those who said they could not afford to do so.

He said his future depended on who bought the land.

"We'll have to have a farm sale if they've sold to someone else that wants to farm," he said.

The council said the sale involved 32 tenancies but 20 were being sold with sitting tenants so would "remain unaffected". A spokeswoman added the land was being sold on the open market so it was possible some could be sold to developers, depending on planning restrictions.

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