PRESS: County Farm squatters make strategic withdrawal

Simon Fairlie tony at
Wed May 10 15:42:39 BST 2006

 Please find press release below, and as PDF attachment

The Land Is Ours
          Balham  Hill Farm Shop   
PRESS RELEASE                                                             
  Chiselborough,  Somerset 
        tel: 01935 881114, 01460 249204                
EMBARGO Not for release until 11 am on Friday 12 May 2006. 

Squatters occupying Balham Hill Farm will be leaving the County
Council-owned farm voluntarily on Friday 12 May. The squatters are due to
be evicted by bailiffs on Monday 15 May , but have agreed to hand back the
building to a representative of the County Council at 11 am on Friday.
Squatter Chris Black  explained: “We have made our point; we have persuaded
the County Council to pull the farm out of the auction.  There is no point
in making the Council go to the expense of hiring bailiffs, so we have
agreed to leave before they are called out.”
The  farm, which  has been occupied since Good Friday, is part of the
County Council’s farm estate. 1  The protesters are angry that the council
wants to sell off  the farm, including its highly successful farm shop, in
the face of widespread opposition from local people and other customers.
The protesters re-opened the farm shop, selling local meat, vegetables,
eggs and milk.
The squatters will be holding a short light-hearted ceremony as they and
their animals leave, returning the key to the farm to a representative of
the County Council who will be there to secure the property, and planting a
symbolic walnut tree close to the farmyard. They will then move on to
County Hall in Taunton to plant a Judas tree in its front garden.
The protesters are jubilant that their protest has forced the County
Council to withdraw the farm from the auction, which had been scheduled for
16 May,  although the farm is still up for tender in June. The delay means
that the matter can be brought before the full meeting of the council on 17
May .
Chris Black, one of the protesters remarked: “This meeting will test the
Councils’ democratic credentials. We know that not just the Conservatives ,
but also a number of the Lib Dems are very unhappy about the policy of
selling off County Farms like Balham Hill  — just like most rural voters.
But we are worried that a small caucus of Lib Dem Councillors on the
executive board,  which is  pushing through this policy, will try to muzzle
their rank and file members.” 
Leaving ceremony at Balham Hill Farm, on the A356 at Chiselborough, 11 am
Friday 12 May. 
Full council meeting, 10 am Wednesday 17 May, at County Hall, Taunton.
FOR INFORMATION CONTACT: 01935 881114, 01460 249204, 07881 636834,
<mailto:chapter7 at>chapter7 at 

NOTE: 1. The County Farms were established after 1908 to provide “starter
farms” for rent to new entrants into farming who did not have the capital
to buy a farm.  Government advice is to retain the county farm estates, but
Somerset County Council’s policy is to sell off 45 out of 75 of its farms.



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