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Monkshill Farm near Faversham under threat as Royal School for Deaf Children suffers financially

By Bess Browning

A farm which has offered an invaluable activity and education centre to children and young people for 20 years is at risk of closing.

The John Townsend Trust announced this week that due to a “difficult economic situation”, Monkshill Farm is under threat.

The farm, in Waterham just outside of Faversham, provides practical learning opportunities and vocational training for many young people on a real working farm, offering an educational hub for youngsters with disabilities.

Monkshill Farm.

Monkshill Farm.

At certain times of the year it is also open to members of the public, who can to visit the animals and eat in the café where most of the food is sourced on the farm.

The board of directors says it would be with “great sadness and regret” to make a decision to sell the farm, but it “looks inevitable in the prevailing financial circumstances”.

The Trust runs the Royal School for Deaf Children and the Westgate College, both in Thanet, and bought the farm in 1995.

It admits it would take drastic action to survive difficult times, axing 20 jobs, cutting staff pay and considering selling off buildings across the enterprise.

Student numbers have steadily dropped over the years and the board of directors says they need to save £650,000.

Monkshill Farm.

Monkshill Farm.

The education centre at the farm offered a range of accredited courses for deaf students but over the summer holidays the Trust made a decision to discontinue this from September onwards.

A statement from the Trust said: “The farm itself has always operated at a loss and at the moment the Trust is looking at many areas to cut costs, including reviewing the sale of properties to secure further funds. "

“The farm itself has always operated at a loss and at the moment the Trust is looking at many areas to cut costs, including reviewing the sale of properties to secure further funds." - Statement from the Trust

“This review also involves consideration of the viability of the Trust’s enterprises such as the farm and possible disposal of land and property assets owned by the Trust.

“No decisions have yet been made to dispose of the farm, however several interested parties have made inquiries and the board has obtained professional advice which goes far beyond simply reporting a value.

“The board’s preference is to keep the farm open and operating.

“However, the reality is that prospective purchasers are unlikely to want to purchase all the livestock and equipment along with the farmland and buildings and so at best we anticipate maintaining the farm shop and cafe.

“Any decision to sell the farm will involve full consultation with those staff affected and those living on the farm.

“Nobody will be forced out of their homes.”

The Trust is looking for donations to help out and hopes that if it was to sell Monkshill Farm, someone would take it on to run a similar enterprise.

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