A company set up by the billionaire founder of a discount retail empire has bought nearly 5,000 acres of land from the Church of England to help farmers “grow and promote British produce”.
Home Bargains chief Tom Morris, 67, is the director of The Halsall Estate Limited, which was incorporated in January and has bought 4,960 acres at Halsall, West Lancashire, in a deal which could be worth up to £50 million.
The land was sold by the Church Commissioners, which administers the property assets of the Church of England and manages around 95,000 acres of land and an £8.7 billion investment fund.
It is not clear how many farmers currently operate on the Halsall Estate, but all agricultural producers and others renting on it “have been assured that the terms of their existing tenancies will be honoured”, a spokesman said.
Britain’s biggest farmer is also its wealthiest man, Sir James Dyson, the 73-year-old inventor of the bagless vacuum.
After buying its first farm near Lincoln in 2013, the agricultural arm Beeswax Dyson now owns 35,000 acres of farmland, producing thousands of tonnes of wheat, spring barley and potatoes among other crops annually.
Sir James has said that “sustainable food production and food security are vital to the nation’s health and the nation’s economy”, and he believes Beeswax Dyson is the first large-scale commercial farm to become carbon neutral in Britain.
Mr Morris, who shuns the limelight, is one of seven siblings born to a Liverpool shopkeeper and founded Home Bargains in the city in 1976. His brother, Joseph, is its operations director.
The cut-price high street chain, which employs more than 25,000 people across 525 stores in the UK, sells everything from designer perfumes to dress-up costumes and dog kennels, paddling pools and power tools to its four million customers per week.
The Morris family has a £4.1 billion fortune, according to The Sunday Times Rich List – more than the combined wealth of retail tycoons Mike Ashley and Sir Philip Green.
A spokesman for The Halsall Estate Limited said: “Following the purchase of Halsall Estate, all tenants have been assured that the terms of their existing tenancies will be honoured and there has been no change to any tenancy agreements on our behalf, before or after the purchase.
“Our aim is to work with local farmers to grow and promote British produce”.
A spokesman for the Church Commissioners for England said it had “completed on the sale of 4,960 acres of land at Halsall, West Lancashire.”
“All parties affected have been notified and where tenancies are in place these will remain,” he added.
The Halsall Estate Limited is registered at the Liverpool office of TJ Morris, the Home Bargains parent company.