Nottinghamshire County Council is weighing up an opportunity to buy the Laxton Village Estate, near Ollerton – the only place in Europe to still operate the medieval traditions of open field farming.
The County Council is leading a project with Nottingham Trent University on a potential bid for the 1,900 acre site with a view to developing its potential as an educational asset, linked to the nearby Brackenhurst Campus which is also operated by the university.
The estate is currently owned by the Crown Estate, which it inherited from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Food in 1981 with a Parliamentary undertaking to conserve the asset. It comprises of agricultural land, 10 residential properties, 17 farms, a public house, visitor centre and museum buildings. The farmland and associated houses are leased to 14 tenant farmers.
The Crown Estate has indicated it may be willing to sell the estate and is inviting the submission of non-binding expressions of interest by the end of December with a view to exploring developed, competitive bids in the new year.
Members of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Policy Committee agreed to submit a formal expression of interest at its meeting today (Wednesday 19 December 2018).
Councillor Kay Cutts MBE, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and Chairman of the Policy Committee, said: “The Laxton Estate is a unique heritage asset in Nottinghamshire of national and international significance The Annual Court Leet held each November in the village, with its complicated system of fines for infringing good practice, demonstrates an early form of local democracy.
“We have a responsibility to do everything we can to ensure its status is protected, while its potential is fully developed. Following discussions with Nottingham Trent University and other stakeholders – including tenants of the estate – we believe there is an exciting opportunity to achieve both.
“This is a non-binding expression of interest at this stage, and the ultimate cost will be a significant factor in determining if our ambitions can be realised. However, we hope that a publicly-funded proposition, which respects and retains Laxton’s heritage and the farmers who work the three-field system whilst developing it as an educational asset, will be looked upon favourably by the Crown Estate.”
Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, Professor Edward Peck, said: “While discussions are in the early stages, we are keen to work with Nottinghamshire County Council to help find a viable future for the estate and to help preserve and protect the last remaining medieval farming system of its kind.”