Change of tenancy on National Trust land would be 'devastating' for business

PUBLISHED: 07:55 22 April 2019

Chris Loughlin and the team at Leigh Court Farm.    

Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Chris Loughlin and the team at Leigh Court Farm. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

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An organic farm site which has been running for 10 years could be put out of business.

Leigh Court Farm, in Abbots Leigh, has been growing vegetables on land which is owned by the National Trust since 2009.

The 10-acre site has been put out to public tender, with a preference for applicants who are able to graze cattle.

The trust wants to create a conservation and habitat development scheme on the land, in Leigh Woods, which the company uses to employ four full-time staff and grow 20 varieties for their vegetable box scheme.

Farm manager Chris Loughlin told the Times: “Effectively, our land would be given as an incentive for a cattle farmer and given we have neither the experience or the wherewithal to manage cattle, I'm afraid we would most likely lose this land.

“We are one of a handful of organic vegetable growers on land near Bristol, surely this is clear evidence of the rarity of our kind of operation and the difficulty of establishing one like it.

“The effect of this would be devastating to our business, we have put this land through the organic conversion process and built up its sustainability for the past 10 years.

“If we have to leave we will lose those hard-won benefits.”

The National Trust said this is a 'farming and conservation issue' as the land holds a special area of conservation status.

Its spokesman added: “Cattle grazing creates the conditions for many of the site's important species to flourish, including rare butterflies and beetles, and Leigh Woods has long been a special place, well-loved by people who come here to enjoy the outdoors for both its wildlife and its history.

“To make this land a sustainable proposition for farmers, we are investigating the possibility of offering a larger tenancy to include other land.

“We want the area which is used for growing organic fruit and vegetables to continue to be used for that purpose.

“We fully recognise the impact this may have on our existing tenants, we have given them 18 months notice of the change and are in conversation with them about all the possible options.”

To sign a petition to allow Leigh Court Farm to keep the lease, log on to www.change.org/p/national-trust-help-organic-farmer-keep-national-trust-lease

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