Councillors opt to sell part of £800,000 Ickleford farm once home to 'thriving' equestrian centre despite more than 500 residents opposing controversial council plans

By Deborah Price - Local Democracy Reporter

19th Feb 2024 | Local News

Councillors opt to sell part of £800,000 Ickleford farm once home to 'thriving' equestrian centre despite more than 500 residents opposing controversial council plans. CREDIT: Will Durrant
Councillors opt to sell part of £800,000 Ickleford farm once home to 'thriving' equestrian centre despite more than 500 residents opposing controversial council plans. CREDIT: Will Durrant

Councillors have decided a 10-acre section of an Ickleford farm – once home to a 'thriving' equestrian centre – can be sold-off.

But they have determined that no sale will be finalised for three months – giving campaigners the chance to raise the funds themselves.

The 10-acre county council-owned site – which includes a Grade II 16th century farmhouse and stables – is part of Lower Green Farm.

And until the last tenant moved out last year, it had included the Ickleford Equestrian Centre.

As Nub News has previously reported, residents rallied over the future of the much-loved Ickleford Equestrian Centre after Herts County Council aimed to sell the site to the highest bidder.

More than 500 residents have signed a petition opposing the council's plans, in a bid to ensure the equestrian facility could be reinstated.

A meeting of the county council's cabinet determined that the site should be sold off on the open market.

However the cabinet also determined that although marketing can start immediately, no offer would be accepted for three months.

 At the meeting executive member for resources and performance Cllr Bob Deering said the equestrian facility run by the previous tenant had been regarded positively within the local community.

But – pointing to the Grade II listed farmhouse – he stressed that it was council policy to dispose of "heritage assets" when it was appropriate to do so.

"The reason that this is before us today is because this particular site has a Grade II listed house on it," said Cllr Deering.

"And as a matter of policy – when it is appropriate to do so – we would dispose of heritage assets, because, as everybody knows, they are disproportionately expensive to maintain and look after."

As previously reported, estimates have suggested that the cost of required repairs to the Lower Green Farm farmhouse is around £800k.

At the meeting Cllr Deering did acknowledge the high level of local interest and the petition.

But he said: "It is my view and it is the recommendation to cabinet that we dispose of this site.

"I am quite clear in my mind that this is the correct decision that we would be making.

"This Grade II listed property already is a financial challenge and will continue to be a financial challenge.

"And obviously we have duties to all the residents of Hertfordshire to expend tax payers money in the way that is most appropriate for all residents of Hertfordshire."

However he did acknowledge the three-month period before an offer would be accepted would allow campaigners to make a bid.

Referencing the three-month period, he said: "[…] the sentiment behind that, absolutely, was to give the local residents an opportunity to raise funds if they are able to."

However he also stressed the council's legal obligation to ensure they received "best consideration" from the sale.

In the hours before the meeting, campaigners had suggested that an amendment be made that would require the land to be disposed of for agricultural or equestrian use, including a facility for the Riding for the Disabled Association.

But Cllr Deering said they could not agree to this, because it would fetter the council's ability to find a buyer.

"It predetermines the type of buyer we could sell to," he said.

"And I think it is pretty clear that would impinge on our legal duty to achieve best consideration."

However he did suggest that having been an equine centre in the past, it could be purchased with that in mind.

 ICKLEFORD ARTICLES

Residents rally over future of much-loved Ickleford Equestrian Centre after council aim to sell site to highest bidder

Planning application submitted for eight homes to be built on former Green Belt land in Ickleford

     

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