Major land sales set to net £40m for cash-strapped council

Stuart Flint at Clearbrook Farm

A move by a West Midlands council to sell off parcels of land could net the authority more than £40m.

Herefordshire Council is selling its smallholding estates and properties, a total of 59 lots, in a move to raise funds to support the delivery of priority services.

The sale, which runs until July 5, is thought to be one of the largest and most diverse agricultural property sales in decades.

The lots cover more than 4,000 acres and range in estimated value from around £175,000 to £2m.

Land and rural estate agents Fisher German is handling the sale of the properties, which currently earn the council around £400,000 a year but have a liability of almost £3m.

The vast majority of the properties are vacant and they include farms, smallholdings, farmland, houses and cottages.

Stuart Flint, head of agency at Fisher German, said the size and scope of the sale was very unusual.

“It is very rare for such a wide range of property holdings to be sold in a single process – and this sort of sale happens once every 10 years or so,” he said.

“The lots range from cottages and smallholdings, to the Grade II listed Clearbrook Farm House at Pembridge plus larger tracts of land and commercial farms, and the valuation process and consultation with tenants has taken more than 12 months.

“The diversity of what is on offer also makes it unusual as there are development opportunities, big houses, small houses, extensive farm building ranges, properties with river frontages and a very wide range of bare land acreages.”

The properties run the 40-mile length of the county so the logistics have also been a challenge, he added.

Fisher German has a team of 12 staff working on the project, and draft contracts have already been drawn up for all the properties on offer.

“We have had to establish an online data room so people can access the huge amount of background and legal information which has been compiled. All the searches and enquiries have already been undertaken and all the contracts are ready and in place as the sales are by informal tender,” added Mr Flint.

At this stage, he said the firm was expecting a range of interested parties, adding that in theory one party could buy all the lots, although this was unlikely given the diversity of the portfolio.

“We are expecting interest from institutions, expanding farmers, developers and local agri-businesses, as well as ‘lifestyle’ buyers and people who see this as an opportunity to take on ‘a project’ in what is a really beautiful part of the world,” he said.

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