Buyers of a farming estate in Northumberland have been urged to spell out their plans for the land, amid concerns of local people being “in the dark.”
As reported by The Journal, Rio Tinto Alcan has sold its 4,500 acre Alcan Farms agricultural land portfolio, linked to the company’s mothballed aluminium smelter, to the Crown Estate.
The portfolio, which was on the market for £20m, includes agricultural land, farm buildings, 19 homes, and an operational 13 turbine wind farm leased to Scottish Power Renewables.
Rio Tinto’s eight remaining farm workers have been made redundant, sparking concern among local people about what the land could be used for if transferred away from farming.
There have been rumours that the new owners will not be farming any animals and that the operation will be all arable, and that the land could house more wind turbines, with the new owner said to have a reputation in the renewable energy sector.
As also reported by The Journal, private tenants on the estate have also voiced concerns over whether they will be allowed to stay in their homes, and if so whether their rent might go up.
Last night, Milburn Douglas, Northumberland County Councillor for Lynemouth, called on the Crown Estate to meet parish councils at Lynemouth, Ellington and Cresswell, and to hold a public meeting, to let local people know their intentions for the portfolio.
Coun Douglas, who was planning to contact county council bosses and MPs, was also critical of a perceived lack of information given out by the Crown Estate to now.
He said: “It causes a lot of difficulty. It is a local community issue that is very important to this area.
“It is not the best of starts to put it mildly.
“It would have been better if they had thought of the local communities and had a public meeting and publicised what their plans were. We are all a bit in the dark.
“I think they should come and meet with the parishes and the communities and let them know what is going on.”
He also hit out at the decision to make the farm workers redundant, calling it a “kick in the teeth after years of service.
“The staff is just telephone numbers unfortunately which is not very helpful after the closure of Alcan itself.” Coun Douglas said he had concerns for tenants’ “wellbeing and their properties.”
The Crown Estate earlier in the week gave an indication of its plans for the estate.
Ken Jones, director of its rural and coastal portfolio, said: “We intend to preserve the estate’s diversified character, which includes maintaining existing agricultural and renewable energy uses.
“As with all the assets in our portfolio, we are keen to drive best value from the estate.
“This could include looking at a range of things, such as land improvement activities like installing new drainage systems to boost agricultural production, or assessing whether land might be available to help meet local housing need.”
Bosses said tenants would be allowed to remain in their homes.