Co-operative Society says goodbye to its 3,800 acre estate near Wisbech but its Wellcome to new owners

14:36 04 August 2014

The Co-operative Food's Pioneer potatoes are grown exclusively at Coldham.

The Co-operative Food's Pioneer potatoes are grown exclusively at Coldham.

Archant

The Co-operative Society has found a buyer for its 3,800 acre estate at Coldham near Wisbech which it put on the market following losses in its banking division.

The Fenland estate – together with 15 other farms- has been bought by the Wellcome Trust as part of a £249million deal.

The Co-op will use the proceeds to pay down debt and invest in its remaining operations, which include food shops, funeral care and insurance. But it will bring to an end its 118 years of crop-growing across the country.

The deal involves 15 farms and almost 40,000 acres of land. The Co-op said it was pleased to have found a buyer that will continue to invest and develop the farms business, which dates back to 1896.

The sites grow a variety of cereals, including wheat for bread flour, and a number of fruit and vegetables, such as potatoes, cider apples and peas.

However, the enterprise was not considered a core business to the Co-op as it supplies only a small proportion of the food sold in its stores. The move follows last month’s sale of its pharmacy stores to Bestway for £620 million.

The Wellcome Trust, which is the world’s second highest-spending charitable foundation, has a property estate valued at around £1.8 billion.

Danny Truell, chief investment officer of the Wellcome Trust, said the organisation valued stewardship over quick profits and had extensive and successful interests in UK property and farmland.

He added: “The Trust’s philosophy is to provide long-term investment for the businesses and property we hold in good times and in bad.”

The sale includes more than 100 properties and 27 commercial buildings. The farms are at Aberdeenshire, Ashby St Ledgers, Blairgowrie, Borders, Carnoustie, Coldham, Down Ampney, Goole, Highland Court, Langley Brook, Longforgan, Louth, Rockingham, Stoughton, Tillington and Wykeham.

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