A LOCAL group trying to secure a former county farm for the community says its attempts have once again been scuppered and is questioning Pembrokeshire County Council's methods of sale.

The Save Trecadwgan group was set up last summer with the aim of buying Trecadwgan Farm near Solva. It intends to create a community farm which would develop eco-agri businesses and training at the farm, its historic outbuildings and 11 acres of land.

The group initially raised £50,000 to remove the farm from auction, scheduled for July 2019, and successfully bid for the farm in November.

Contractual negotiations with the council caused one of the group's funders to back out. However, another was quickly found.

At the beginning of December the group was told the authority was putting the farm back on the market and that all interested parties were being contacted to submit offers in sealed envelopes.

Having successfully secured a new backer, the group sent in a sealed bid as well as letters from countless supporters. Its bid was once again successful and formal acceptance was received.

However, on January 7, the group was told that a higher offer had been made and, despite the process having closed at 12 noon on December 13, that they had effectively been "gazumped". Members were asked if they would like to make a counter-offer.

The group is worried that there is no guarantee that they would not be further "gazumped" should they submit a subsequent successful bid.

A spokesman for the community group said there was "grave concern" about the nature of such practice by the local authority.

"Alongside our backer we have participated in the bidding process in good faith and submitted a strong bid, which was previously accepted," said Gareth Chapman, secretary of Cymdeithas Trecadwgan, the CBS set up to run activities on the farm.

"We have serious concerns over our continued participation in a flawed process which, could prevent perfectly proceedable, accepted bids made by, ourselves, or any other bidder, reaching completion.

"We therefore request that Pembrokeshire County Council halt the process and works to find a solution which gives any bids accepted in the future a more realistic chance of completing."

A spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said that the authority was following due process set out in section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972, which indicates that the council should give consideration to any offer made. Failure to comply with this could lead to the sale being challenged by judicial review.

"From a legal point of view section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972 provides that the council should not dispose of land for a consideration less than the best that can reasonably be obtained. The council can sell land in any manner it wishes," said a spokesman.

"Although the community group may feel frustrated, the council must ensure first and foremost that correct legal procedures are followed, while also generating capital receipts in this period of sustained financial pressures."