Monday 15 July 2024
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Nottingham

Nine farms to be sold by city council to help reduce debt

A number of farms that have been owned by Nottingham City Council for more than 25 years are being sold off to help reduce the authority’s huge debts.

The Labour-run authority currently owns around 3,600 property assets with a combined value of more than £1 billion.

The property portfolio is being reviewed as part of ongoing urgent financial improvement work to balance budgets and cut the council’s roughly £1 billion debt bill.

So far, the council has made £56.24m from selling 51 properties including some other farms which were on the books, with more also due to go.

Some of the other properties sold so far include an unused school building and car parks.

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Councillor Steve Battlemuch (Lab), recently took charge of the council’s skills, growth, economic development and property portfolio.

He says he has been questioning why the council ever owned certain assets which are still on its books.

Some of its property includes nine farms, all of which are outside Nottinghamshire.

“You have got things where, from a historical perspective, [you think] ‘why did we ever have things?’,” Cllr Battlemuch said.

“We have got nine farms all of which are outside the city. Why have we got them? Probably nobody really knows.

“Most of those are operational farms, I’m sure they are doing a good job and they might well carry on as operational farms, we just don’t need to own them as a city council.

“We are certainly making money on them. We are just about bringing money in but they could be sold to either people who want to keep them going on as farms or maybe they might be sold for development, housing, whatever.

“That would be a better use of the money for the council in the short-term.”

The council has not purchased any other farms more recently, but the location of those it does own and what they are used for has not been disclosed.

The farms it owns are “legacy ownerships”, the council also says, and date back before the current unitary organisation was formed in 1998, when it gained independence from Nottinghamshire County Council.

Assets like the farms are being sold off first as to avoid a ‘fire sale’ approach, which the council says it wants to avoid as to protect assets which hold more community value.

A council spokesman added: “All councils have a portfolio of different types of assets, ranging from operational land and property that is used to deliver services to the public, to commercial properties that are generally let to third parties for one reason or another.

“Some commercial property will have been acquired purely for investment purposes for the financial return that it offers.

“In the case of farms, the council hasn’t bought any in recent years. These are legacy ownerships, pre-dating the current City Council organisation which came into being in 1998, before which it had been part of the County Council.

“We have no involvement in the day-to-day operation of the farms, we are the landlord to whom the farmers pay rent, as with any other commercially let asset.

“A significant number of farms have been sold off already and as part of an ongoing structured review of all our commercial properties, we will be considering which assets it is appropriate for the council to dispose of in the future.”

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