The troubled Co-operative Group has sold its farms business for £249m to health charity the Wellcome Trust.
The Co-op said it will now focus on its core retail and consumer divisions, including food, insurance and legal services, and its funeral business.
It will use the sale cash to reduce debt and invest in its core businesses.
The sale includes 39,533 acres of land, 15 farms, more than 100 residential properties, as well as some 27 commercial properties.
Homeowners could be compensated if the value of their property falls when new garden cities are built, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has suggested.
Mr Clegg told the BBC's Countryfile the government could buy homes blighted by developments or offer owners council tax cuts while building takes place.
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