A community asset will be returned to public use following a court case brought by Manchester City Council (MCC) against the directors of Rosehill Community Farm and Garden (RCF) in Northenden.
MCC is the owner of the land which had been leased to RCF to operate the community farm – a facility set up to regenerate a disused allotment site.
The case was brought for breach of the terms of the lease, pertaining to the failure to use the site as a community garden space as per the user clause in the lease conditions.
A council spokesperson said: "The council has been granted possession of the former Rose Hill Community Farm site and the intention will be to ensure that it is brought back into constructive use.
“Work is underway to consider how the site can be used in the future - with a commitment to creating a community asset for local people."
The council was granted possession of the land on Shawcross Lane, Northenden at a County Court hearing in May. The lease with Rose Hill Community Farm has formally ended, with a court costs order granted in the council’s favour.
Kevin Reveley (63) was the only director representing RCF in court; the other directors resigned on 31 March 2023.
The community farm received cash grants totalling £23,430 from MCC during the period from 2011 to 2014. Despite more recent access requests to the directors, council officers were unable to enter the site until early 2021. The possession order gives MCC unfettered access for the first time in many years.
Funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to develop the site and provide training and skills opportunities amounted to £282,833. A further grant of £474 was provided by the High Sheriff’s Police Trust Fund.
The project was designed as an open-air green facility for the community, providing services such as training in horticulture to reduce older people’s isolation and increase job prospects for young and unemployed people.
Your Local Voice commissioned drone photography and filming in February 2021, which revealed an apiary containing over one hundred visible bee hives.
When council officers eventually accessed the site in March 2021, investigations revealed that the hives were being used to breed queen bees, which sell online for an average price of £45 each.
The loss of this community asset raises questions about longer-term monitoring of grant funded projects.
A spokesperson for the National Lottery Community Fund said: “We would always be disappointed to hear communities are no longer able to enjoy a project we’ve funded. Between 2011 and 2016 we awarded Rosehill Community Farm and Garden £282,833 across five projects …. their final grant ended as planned in 2017 and we conducted our usual robust checks.
“We were satisfied that the money was used as intended, and the way in which the project was delivered and completed. There have been no further grants since.”
Manchester City Council added: “The council is aware that assets have been removed from the site. However, it should be noted that the property removed from the site did not belong to the council and therefore this was not part of the legal process to gain possession of the land.
“Following the hearing that secured immediate possession of the land, the council has since made the site secure and will now carry out a site condition survey.”
Rosehill Community Farm and Garden was incorporated in July 2011 as a private company limited by guarantee. Profits were to be retained in the business and not distributed. The most recent published accounts for the financial year to 31 July 2021 show a loss of £27,349.
An application to strike the company off the Register of Companies was made on 29 May.
The community farm business is not connected to Rosehill Woods in Northenden.Back