Negotiation results in Acton Scott Historic Working Farm returning to estate’s control
Shropshire Council Cabinet has approved a recommendation to hand back the site of Acton Scott Historic Working Farm to the owners of the site, the Acton Scott Estate.
Detailed negotiations between Shropshire Council, which has operated the visitor attraction under a lease agreement for the past 47 years, and the Acton Scott Estate has resulted in mutual agreement that the lease be surrendered.
The recommendation was approved at Shropshire Council’s Cabinet meeting on 14 December and the settlement allows the owners to invest in the essential infrastructure improvements required to support endeavours to open a new historic attraction.
Rob Gittins, Shropshire Council Cabinet member for culture and digital, said:-
“Shropshire Council has always placed great value on Acton Scott Historic Working Farm, recognising its importance socially, educationally and in terms of the visitor economy, and we know that it is held in great regard by the public.
“Unfortunately, along with many other local authorities Shropshire Council is facing additional pressures on its budgets, and with the attraction operating at a deficit of £168,000 per annum, the Shropshire taxpayer has been subsidising the running costs of the farm at a cost of £8.40 per visitor.
“The decision to surrender the lease, which still has 16 years left to run, has been reached after many months of deliberation and negotiation with the estate and we are pleased, having explored many options, to have reached a mutually satisfactory conclusion.
“We wish the owners well as they take the site forward according to their vision for the historic working farm.”
Francis Acton for the Acton Scott Estate said:-
“We are pleased that an agreement has been reached in principle, and we will now focus on essential maintenance work to the buildings and farmland. At the same time we will explore options for the future in accordance with the vision of my late father and taking into account the findings of the public consultation. This will not be easy, as we seek to ensure that the site can be financially sustainable over the medium term.
“It is likely that an application will be made to the Charity Commission to establish a not-for-profit organisation to run the attraction, and the support of the many people who have valued their experience at Acton Scott will be essential for its long-term success.
“We will keep people informed of progress, including when the site is likely to re-open and how members of the public can get involved in the future.”
Acton Scott Historic Working Farm was the vision of Thomas Acton who established the museum to demonstrate historic farming techniques. It has been operated by Shropshire Council, as tenants of the Acton Scott Estate since the 1970s.
Faced with the need to find a financially sustainable approach, Shropshire Council launched a public engagement exercise in February 2022 which included a survey, direct responses and holding discussions with the Friends of Acton Scott Historic Working Farm, the local community and the education and heritage skills sector.
Information gathered during this exercise helped inform negotiations for the surrender of the lease.
It is anticipated the surrender will take effect from the end of the financial year, in March 2023.