A row has broken out between the landowner of Westridge Farm and the tenant farmers, the Holliday family.
In a letter (seen by News OnTheWight) to the leader of the Isle of Wight council – Cllr Dave Stewart – and copied to all councillors, the landlord and owner since 1988, Robert Ball of Arnbrow Ltd, said that he felt the media coverage of the position of the tenant farmers, in particular a recent broadcast on BBC South Today, was “not a fair or accurate representation of the situation”.
Dispute over settlement
Mr Ball states in his letter that a commercial settlement of £800,000, plus 50 acres of farmland, was agreed in August 2109, but that the tenant farmers then insisted on £1m settlement instead.
Mr Ball said the £800k offer was accepted and confirmed in writing, but the Hollidays – in a statement they released on their Save Westridge Farm Facebook Page yesterday (Monday) – countered that by saying,
“An £800,000 offer was put forward by Robert Ball of Arnbrow Ltd, meaning vacating Westridge Farm completely.
“We did consider this with the assistance of our land agent and solicitor and we did put forward a counter offer of £1m.
“This value was based on relocating to another dairy farm, which we would have had to invest in heavily.”
Payment over four years
The Hollidays went on to say that the payment terms of the settlement was actually over four years, with the first payment not being received until after they had vacated the farm – giving them no ability to buy another farm to move on to.
The family went on to explain that the landlord has stated that through a clause in the current tenancy, they will seek to remove five acres every quarter as soon as planning permission is granted.
“The first five acres will include the farmhouse and farm buildings. This will mean the end to dairy farming at Westridge Farm, as we will simply be unable to continue without suitable farm buildings to house our cattle, a dairy and a home to live in.”
Lilley: 50 acres is not enough
Cllr Michael Lilley, who has been a strong advocate of the tenant farmers, told News OnTheWight that the Hollidays had been completely open and transparent throughout the process.
He added that the offer of 50 acres of farmland was not sufficient to run a dairy farm on, stressing the importance of needing to find another farm on the Island to protect their livelihoods and generations of farming.
Cllr Lilley went on to say that farmland is costed on average at around £8,000-£12,000 per acre, but with planning permission this can rise by 30 times. On a farm such as Westridge, this would put the value of the land at around £24 million.
Holliday: Protecting and safeguarding land for future generations
In their statement, the Hollidays finished by saying,
“Our hope is that planning will not be granted, so we can continue to dairy farm at Westridge Farm, protecting and safeguarding this land for the good of future generations.”
West Acre Park
Mr Ball ended his letter to Cllr Stewart by saying he hoped it would ensure an informed and balanced decision when the West Acre Park proposal is presented for planning determination.
The planning committee can, of course, only consider material planning objections when determining an application.
A revised application has been submitted by Captiva Homes, the developer planning to build 475 homes on the farmland.
You can read the Holliday’s statement in full on their Facebook page.