The following letter has been sent off to local media:
The County Council and the National Trust have done it again: they have done another farmland deal in private to the disbenefit of Cambridgeshire's public purse and to the benefit of the National Trust.
The details of the latest deal done in private have emerged in the last few days. The council has sold 24.23 acres of good quality farmland near Reach for £115,000. The price represents £4,746.18 per acre. The National Trust was the buyer. No farmer buyer got a look-in. This latest deal done in private follows another deal done in private and completed in 2008, when a whole farm of over 100 acres - Hurdle Hall, also near Reach - was sold to the National Trust for £300,000, substantially less than my estimate of its true value.
I believe that the latest deal done in private, like the earlier one, is a scandal. I say this because I have good reason to believe that the 24.23 acres are worth at least £7,000 per acre as food-growing farmland. By selling 24.23 acres of farmland at £4,746.18 per acre instead of £7,000 per acre, the County Council has effectively 'given' the National Trust the sum of £54,610 - possibly more.
When I was Chairman of the County Council's Finance Committee in the 1970s, I pleaded the poverty line on behalf of the County Council. I believed in the line that I took at that time. Others have pleaded the same line since. I now take the line that, if the County Council can afford to 'give' the National Trust £54,610, the Council's oft-pleaded poverty line is misleading and not to be believed.
Something must be done. If County Council farmland is to be sold, it must be sold more openly. This scandal must not be repeated.