ONE farm owned by Hampshire County Council has been in the news recently with the plans for a Royaldown new town near Winchester.

Farmer Nick Russell, of Down Farm, near Oliver’s Battery, proposes a new town using land owned by the county council, including Bushfield Farm.

The county council has denied supporting his proposal and now has affirmed its commitment to its 1,900-hectare farm estate – to provide an affordable first step on the farming ladder for aspiring farmers.

The county council owns land south of Winchester including Bushfield Farm, Yew Tree Farm and Attwoods Drove Farm.

Approving the plans at his decision day meeting on Friday, Cllr Edward Heron, executive member for recreation, heritage, countryside and rural affairs, said: “Hampshire County Council’s farm estate has helped hundreds of talented new entrants into farming, and it makes a significant contribution to the rural economy.

“At a time when the agricultural industry is facing significant change, we have re-examined how our farm estate can best support existing and future tenants, whilst delivering maximum environmental, social and economic benefits. As part of this review, I’ve seen first-hand how the enterprise and expertise of our tenants is producing great quality food and promoting high standards of land management.

“Our new blueprint for county farms in Hampshire sets out a clear direction for how we can effectively manage these public assets in the coming years and decades. Central to this is ensuring the farm estate continues to offer start-up opportunities for aspiring farmers as well as ploughing back a whole host of positive contributions to the wider community.”

The council’s farm estate features a range of units that support dairy, arable, horticultural and livestock businesses.

The new County Farms policy ‘2021 Towards 2050 – A Vision for a Better Farming Future’ was approved by Cllr Heron.

The new framework set out by the policy comes as the agricultural industry faces significant change following the exit from the EU, the Agriculture Act 2020 and Defra’s publication of its Path to Sustainable Farming.

Key features of the new policy include:

• Continuing to support new entrants into farming to build sustainable businesses and offer progression opportunities for existing tenants where possible;

• Delivering sustainable, high standard, land management and farming systems, to promote animal welfare and soil health, better air and water quality, a network of thriving wildlife habitats and contribute towards the county council’s climate change targets. The authority declared a climate emergency in June 2019 and has pledged to bring carbon emissions in Hampshire down to net zero by 2050.

• Maintaining the scale and diversity of the County Farms estate - encouraging innovation and farm diversification where this brings benefits to the tenants and the surrounding rural communities.