© Sir Kyffin Williams, R.A. (1918-2006)
It is refreshing therefore to discover that at a meeting of the Executive this week, the decision was finally made to take action and sell a small portion of these smallholdings, and parcels of bare land, in order to fund much needed estate management, such as repairs and modernisation for the remaining smallholdings over the next five years. Furthermore, going beyond just improving the quality of the estate, plans have also been put in place to create a clear succession framework to ensure that the modernised smallholdings are then available to help young farmers (with Agricultural College backgrounds) get a 'step-up' into the farming business.
This decision by the Council is entirely to be welcomed -- and in fact exactly such a policy was advocated in the People's Manifesto for Ynys Môn:
- Anglesey County Council’s tenant farms are a valuable public asset and provide an opportunity for much needed younger farmers to learn the ropes and become independent with minimal capital outlay. However, many of the council's tenant farms are currently in poor states of disrepair. Resources allowing, the council should endeavour to renovate them so that they will continue to serve the island.
- In order to generate money to renovate the majority of the council’s tenant farms, it may be necessary to value and sell off a small proportion of such to tenant farmers, or even offer part ownerships of smallholdings.
Therefore all credit to the new portfolio holder for Property, Smallholdings and Asset Management, Cllr H. Eifion Jones, for having the foresight to grasp this particular nettle and also for managing to build cross-party support within the council for this intervention. Some other councils with similarly large numbers of smallholdings, such as Somerset, have decided to sell their entire estates -- however, considering agriculture is so important to both Anglesey's past ("Môn Mam Cymru") and it's future, the Druid completely supports the plans to create, in Cllr Eifion Jones's words, "a vibrant smallholdings estate which will help young farmers enter the agricultural industry".
Readers might also be interested to learn that Prof. Elan Closs Stephens, chair of the Recovery Board, has taken to strolling through the council building and sitting in on various meetings. This week she decided to attend the above meeting and declared herself delighted with both the proactive policy itself and the constructive nature of the meeting.
Could this be a sign that the Council is beginning to consider the challenges it faces in a mature manner and is trying to turn itself around?