A VALUED community farm - that operates a foodbank as well as helping schoolchildren and people with disabilities connect with nature - is within touching distance of finding a new home after fears of closure.
The project, at Milefield Primary Academy in Grimethorpe, was given an ultimatum last summer when Hoyland Common Academy Trust took on the school and made the decision to remove the farm ‘as soon as possible’.
The Chronicle can reveal that, a year into the two-year underlease granted to Barnsley Council when the trust came in, an agreement has been reached in principle to relocate the farm to ex-Red Bruce Dyer’s Love Life Sports Ground on Brierley Road.
Planning permission is expected to be sought soon ahead of preparations for the move beginning in earnest.
And with Barnsley Council serving as leaseholder through its agreement with the trust, the local authority is committed to stumping up the cost of removing the farm.
A report estimates costs to be £43,977, the majority of which - around £31,678 - is required to landscape the school site.
Coun Jeff Ennis, also the chair of the Grimethorpe Community Farm (GCF) steering group, said he was hopeful the move will go ahead without issue and it’s now just ‘formalities’ of the planning process holding it up.
“Although funding has been an issue in the past, the council recognise the importance of carrying on the farm for the future of Grimethorpe,” he told the Chronicle.
“It’s turned into a flagship project in Grimethorpe, as far as local elected members are concerned.
“What I’m now trying to get from officers is when it will go to planning.
“I’m not anticipating any issues and then we can get it done quick-sticks.”
The farm was set up by a former headteacher in 2016, with support from Voluntary Action Barnsley (now Barnsley Community and Voluntary Services) and the North East Area Council, and saw a derelict caretaker’s bungalow converted into a learning space and cafe.
It has since become a focal point for the village - not just as a popular resource for learning about all manner of animals.
Volunteers and steering group members also operate a foodbank, an approved safe place for looked after children (LAC) to see parents and support workers, and a hub for Grimethorpe’s flood response.
A report issued to Barnsley Council’s cabinet spokesperson for regeneration and culture said: “If GCF are unable to find an alternative site within the time available, then it’s foreseen that they would have to close down and in doing so they would need to relocate the animals.
“However, the community farm are being supported by the North East Area Council team and have an in-principal agreement with the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO) and Bruce Dyer from Love Life UK for a lease at the Grimethorpe Welfare grounds.
“This is a larger site in the centre of the village of Grimethorpe and will be run as a mutually supportive community venue for both the community farm and Love Life UK community groups.
“GCF require planning permission in order to complete the lease.
“A representation of the site has been prepared and a planning application is due to be submitted shortly.
“In any event and regardless of which route is followed, the costs associated with removing the farm infrastructure, any maintenance or renovation work required at the former caretaker’s bungalow and making good and providing topsoil and grass seed etc. will fall to the council as lessee under the terms of the two-year lease.”