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Lindsey 'care farm' set to open despite concerns that similar project ended after three years

Council funding for a “care farm” supporting people with challenges such as learning disabilities has been approved, despite concerns that a similar council-funded project by the same charity ended after three years.

The Befriending Scheme charity is set to open the farm in Lindsey after securing £100,000 at a meeting of Babergh District Council’s cabinet yesterday.

The Assington Care Farm that opened in 2019 was also run by the Befriending Scheme after gaining council funding. Its relocation and the new bid were largely fuelled by a breakdown in relationship between the charity and the landlord at Assington.

Cllr Jan Osborne. Picture: Babergh District Council
Cllr Jan Osborne. Picture: Babergh District Council

A condition that all money invested by the council will be returned by the charity if the project fails within ten years was added to the approved funding.

The officers’ report stated they tried and failed to discover the reasons behind the breakdown in relationship between the landlord and the charity by contacting the landlord.

The report also mentioned officers had requested accounts for Assington Care Farm but they are not available. The only accounts they could access were those for the Befriending Scheme charity as a whole.

The farm at Assington cost the council almost £74,000 less than the one at Lindsey. The chief executive of the charity said the site at Assington was 1.47 acres and the one at Lindsey is 4.4 acres, explaining the cost increases.

The earlier and current bid were both from community infrastructure levy (CIL) funding, charges made by councils on developers to improve facilities in the area. Babergh District Council uses CIL money for long-term investments.

The Befriending Scheme charity supports people over the age of 16 with learning disabilities and mental health problems, as well as older people and other groups that are vulnerable to feeling isolated.

Planning permission has been granted for the care farm in Lindsey despite local objections on highway and traffic grounds. These objections were not backed up by the highways authority.

Cllr Jan Osborne said: “I appreciate the concerns that local residents have raised. But this type of scheme is so badly needed, and the need is becoming more and more critical.

“One of the young residents in my ward has used the care farm in Assington for 18 months. He could not get out of his house before then, but now he could actually go out and get a job.”

All but one cabinet councillor at the meeting voted in support of the funding.

The cabinet also approved CIL funding of £30,825 for an extension to the village hall car park in Great Waldingfield and £55,928 for an upgrade to parking facilities at the Great Cornard Allotment car park.