‘Help save our animals’ plead worried farmers

Lisa Lombardi with her son Samuel Lombardi of Hedgehog Farm, Sutterton, who face losing their farming business because their landlord hasn't paid the bills.
Lisa Lombardi with her son Samuel Lombardi of Hedgehog Farm, Sutterton, who face losing their farming business because their landlord hasn't paid the bills.

A farming family from Sutterton face lambing season heartache because they claim their landlord has not paid the mortgage and they are being evicted.

Lisa and David Lombardi and their two sons, Samuel and Harry, have until Thursday at 1pm to move out of their rented home at Hedgehog Farm with their flock of 60 sheep, ten Aberdeen Angus cattle, 30 pigs plus other animals.

The upheaval has been made worse because it is halfway through the lambing and calving season, when it is illegal to move animals.

On Friday, a vet visited the farm to see if a special licence could be arranged so the animals could be moved if the Lombardis found somewhere to go.

The only glimmer of hope on the horizon is a u-turn by the Bank of Scotland, which has closed the gate on further negotiations for the Lombardis to stay at the property and threatened to “remove any remaining livestock at its own discretion by hired contractors employed in farm evictions, either to a local market or abattoir”.

After the Lincolnshire Free Press contacted the Bank of Scotland on Friday, a spokesman said it would “put in place appropriate arrangements to take care of the animals in full compliance with the regulations about moving livestock”.

The spokesman said: “We completely sympathise with the Lombardis.

“The bank has worked with the family over the last two years to explore every possible alternative to repossession but unfortunately this has not proved possible.”

Now the family are appealing to any local 
farmer who might have fields that their animals could move to.

Lisa said: “It’s heartbreaking. With the lambing it’s such a busy time – I try not to think about it until everyone’s gone to bed.

“But we stand to lose everything unless we can find somewhere to go.”

The Lombardis were first served with an eviction notice 18 months ago and have since been negotiating with the Bank of Scotland and seeking help from the Lincolnshire Rural Support Network and the Tenant Farmers’ Association.

When they took the tenancy two-and-a-half years ago, she said the house was derelict and they fitted all the electrics, plumbing and insulation, as well as concreting downstairs, plastering walls, laying floorboards upstairs and fitting new staircase and doors.

In addition, they fenced the property and Lisa estimates they have spent about £80,000 making the property liveable and the farm workable.

Lisa said the family is being evicted because the Bank of Scotland were unaware the Lombardis were living at the property .

She said: “Our rent is £15,000 paid yearly in advance and it ran out on October 28, 2013, because our landlord was nowhere to be found so we could not pay him.

“Our solicitor advised us not to give him any more, but asked the bank how we could pay them. However, the bank’s solicitor said: ‘Our client is not satisfied that the proposal is either affordable or otherwise that is appropriate for our client to accept such a proposal’.”

Lisa felt the bank only seemed interested in them buying the farm, but said they did not give them a price or time to raise the cash as it took three months for them to send a valuer. She said the bank’s solicitor informed them: “Our client requires proof of funding within 14 days of the date of this letter.”

The Lombardis are hoping to find somewhere in Lincolnshire to move to. Harry is winner of the Eastern Region Young Shepherd competition and due to enter the NSA UK Shepherd finals in July.

Lisa said: “There are farms in Wales, but we want to stay here because that’s where our sons’ business is.”

The Free Press was unable to contact the landlord.

“This should be such a special time of the year. Villagers bring their children down to see the lambs and the other animals and buy vegetables, eggs and meat boxes.

“It’s not just us who will suffer.”