Sale of land raises doubts about farm

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - News - by Mike Ben­nett mben­nett@thek­m­group.co.uk

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

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