Sale of land raises doubts about farm
JUST 15 months after victory celebrations by campaigners to keep Ashford’s North School farm open it is under threat again.
In the summer of 2006 we revealed county council plans to sell the 70-year-old farm site for housing had been agreed.
That sparked a wave of protest from young farmers’ club members and many others including Ashford MP Damian Green, High Sheriff Amanda Cottrell, and council leader Paul Clokie.
Backed by the 2,000 strong signature Kentish Express ‘Fight for the Farm petition’, county hall chiefs relented in the summer of 2007 and agreed to retain enough land to keep the community farm and create a new vocational centre for land based studies.
At the time delighted head teacher Lesley Ellis praised the campaign, saying the farm had been secured for future generations to benefit from and welcomed the retention of the unique educational opportunities it provides.
But fresh fears over the farm’s future first emerged again in July when a meeting of the Kent County Council local board was held at the school, chaired by Cllr Mike Angell.
During a debate about the redevelopment of the school campus a resident asked about the future of unused land and was told by KCC director of resources, Grahame Ward, that no house builder was interested in KCC sites at that time.
He said: “So there are no plans in the foreseeable future for fur- ther development. The school farm is safe and we will write to all residents if the position changes.”
But just five weeks later he circulated a letter saying KCC was preparing to market part of the site on the eastern boundary of the school (where the farm buildings stand) in mid September to establish if there would be any interest from developers.
This prompted new fears over the farm’s future.
The site has no planning permission although it is thought up to 18 homes could be built on the area fronting Essella Road.
Mr Ward’s letter went on to say: “KCC is most likely to proceed with an offer (assuming we get a satisfactory one), based on the purchaser obtaining planning consent. This is likely to take up to a year to achieve from the time an offer is accepted, which at the earliest will be mid to late November.”
What do you think? Write to Kentish Express, 34-36 North Street, Ashford, Kent TN24 8RJ or email kentishexpress@t hekmgroup.co.uk
Head Lesley Ellis with Ashford North Young Farmers’ celebrating the news that the farm had been saved in 2007