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Way forward agreed with Serpentine Farm

High Peak Borough Council has offered the Serpentine Community Farm an opportunity to remain on the site until December 2019 and the option of acquiring the property outright.

In line with long-stated intentions, the Council had notified the Farm group of its intention to sell the site for housing last year but pledged that the use of the site would be reviewed if planning permission was not secured. As part of that process, formal notice was given for the site to be vacated this year.

The Council has a costed programme to dispose of surplus assets across the Borough to provide money to meet the very challenging capital investment programme demanded to keep the remaining buildings in good order. However, a recent report has revealed that early results from the disposal programme are likely to exceed expectations.

As a result, the Council has concluded that disposal of the Serpentine site is less pressing that previously thought - and has opened negotiations with the Community Farm about the future use of the land.

Council Leader, Councillor Tony Ashton, said: "Through prudent and careful management of the disposal of some of our assets, we're now in the position of being less pressed to maximise our income from the site through housing development.

"It will still be necessary to raise a cash value from the site if at all possible and we're talking to the Farm volunteers about the possibility of them buying it. But if it is regarded as being of benefit to the community we may be able to offer it to them at a substantially discounted price given that there now seems to be less need for the Council to maximise the return.

"We realise they couldn't possibly raise the necessary cash overnight and that they will need some time to raise the funds, so we've agreed a 17-month lease which will allow them to remain on the site in the meantime. It is anticipated that they may be able to access a number of grant opportunities that will assist them to reach an agreed target and we will work with them to help with any potential grant bids.

"I'd also like to stress that over a lengthy period we have made the Community Farm a number of offers to move to other sites that the Council would either gift free of charge or allow the use of on a long-term lease, those sites having much less potential cash value. All have been rejected up until now by the Farm volunteers, who consider them unsuitable, but they remain on the table as options to be considered.

"For the present, I have instructed that the work that was underway on preparing for the development of the site should be suspended while negotiations are ongoing."