Published: 12:11, 19 July 2021
| Updated: 12:16, 19 July 2021
A knight on a white steed has appeared with an offer that could save a farm for adults with special needs from closure.
Last week it emerged that North Kent College, which runs the Princess Christian's Farm in Hildenborough near Tonbridge on behalf of Kent County Council's social services, had decided not to renew its contract, which expires in September.
The decision cast the future of the farm, which has been a lifeline for people with autism and physical disabilities for the past 111 years, in doubt.
But as dismayed parents steeled themselves to tell their offspring they would soon have to stop going to the farm, another provider has said it would be interested in taking on the facility.
Jack Wise, programme director with the Kentish Homecare Agency, said: "We were shocked to read what was planned for the site.
"It's a brilliant provision and I know how important the work done by the farm is.
"It would be an immense shame to lose it and so over the weekend we have written to KCC 's Corporate Director of Adult Social Care and Health to offer our assistance as a new provider."
"Despite farming and adult social care being difficult to sustain, we are in a good position as a long-standing provider of social care, to continue any provision.
"We understand that cabinet members and senior commissioners will be meeting this week at some point to go over their options and we await their feedback."
Kentish Homecare Agency has been providing community-based social care services for over 35 years, predominantly in South East London, but it has recently expanded its supported living offering in West Kent.
The service provides home care, complex care, supported living, live-in and discharge to assess services under a framework agreement with the London Borough of Bromley and to private residents across South East London and Kent.
Kentish Homecare Agency is owned by the Saint Raphael’s Centre – a non-profit society with aims of improving the lives of individuals with health and care needs.
In the meantime, a petition calling on KCC to find a way to keep the farm open continues to gain momentum. It is up to 4,400 signatures.
Princess Christian Farm in Riding Lane was originally founded by Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Christian, in 1910 and passed into the hands of KCC's social services in 1984.
In 2009 the authority out-sourced the running of the farm to Hadlow College, which in turn was taken over by North Kent College last year.
The working farm regularly caters for around 25 adults each day, with most attending for two or three days a week.
You can find the online petition here.