Council bosses have reversed a controversial decision to sell off all of its farm land on the investor market, giving fresh hope to tenants wishing to buy their businesses.
Shropshire County Council said it would not be selling the 1,400 acres currently farmed by 25 tenants in one chunk but said it would be offering it for sale as part of a long-term programme to boost funds.
The local authority, which fell into a Conservative administration at last month's election, said it would not be offering farms to new tenants and instead will be relying on sales to boost its capital programme.
Council leader Malcolm Pate said: "We are not going back into farming. When the council developed the smallholdings it gave people a way into farming but given that farming represents five per cent of the industry in the county, it is not viable to do that anymore."
Coun Pate, head of the Conservative group, said the decision not to sell the farms off immediately would leave a dent in the current capital programme, with highways and rights of way effected, but said the long-term financial benefits were greater.
He added: "We are not selling the family silver off and splashing out on one capital programme. We will actually get more money. If we had sold it off all in one go it would have been at a 40 to 50 per cent discounted price whereas if the money trickles into the capital programme we will get a much better price.
"We will have to cut back on the capital programme, and cut backs will include highway maintenance but we don't think there will be a significant effect. We have also cut back 20 per cent on rights of way but we hope to still meet best value targets."
The council will now revert to the previous policy of selling smallholdings individually, either when they become vacant, or directly to the existing tenant.