The boundaries of scores of farms rented out by Norfolk County Council are set to be redrawn – with some to be made bigger and some land sold off.
Norfolk County Council bosses said a new strategy for its 16,800 acre County Farms estate is needed because some of the 210 tenancies are now too small to be viable as successful farm businesses.
The Conservative-controlled council says redrawing boundaries when tenancies are coming to an end or where tenants are approaching retirement age means they can redraw boundaries.
That includes bringing farms separated by neighbouring farmland together and making some farms bigger.
Officers said some farms are too small to be viable, given modern farming methods, and want to create more opportunities for people taking on farms for the first time.
Jane James, the council’s cabinet member for corporate services and innovation, said: “We’re very proud of our County Farms estate and are committed to preserving it for the benefit of upcoming generations – and this means we need to keep in step with the changing needs of British agriculture.
“Our aim is to safeguard Norfolk’s agricultural future and support a vibrant local farming community by seeking to open up opportunities for new tenants to secure an economically viable farm of their own.”
The council says “several parcels” of land would be sold off to bring in money for the authority, wrestling with a £46.2m budget gap.
That could include land being sold to the council’s own property company Repton Homes, to build homes and generate money for the council.
Officers stress the total estate would not fall below 16,000 acres, but the move has attracted criticism.
Ben Price, Green county councillor, said: “I’m very disappointed in the approach of this council.
“What I see is larger agricultural machines, leading to more compaction of the soil, an increase in pesticides and insecticides and a detrimental impact on the environment.”
Labour county councillor Terry Jermy said it was a “retrograde step”.
The council’s corporate select committee discussed the new strategy on Monday (October 13) with the final decision resting with the council’s cabinet.