As we continue to monitor the ever-changing situation regarding COVID-19, we want to reassure you that, although our offices are temporarily closed, our teams are still working and can be contacted on their normal phone numbers.

The government continues to issue and update advice and guidance, and we are reviewing this as and when it changes. Below, you will find a summary, which will be kept up to date as it evolves. 

All estate and farm businesses are unique and require a bespoke approach so, if you would like any help in understanding how these affect you, or specific advice as to actions you should be taking, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Rural businesses cover a wide range of activities across the UK. The impact of COVID-19 will be very varied. We set out below some advice to businesses which we hope will be helpful.
Our research team have published a detailed RURAL MARKET OUTLOOK that is being continually reviewed and updated with our most latest insights. To view this report please click here.

Government guidance states that people should work from home if they can. If this is not possible, they are still able to travel to work. If, however they are temporarily unable to perform their duties the government’s Job Retention Scheme can be utilised. This enables the employee to be “furloughed” for a period of time with the government funding all or a significant element of the employee’s salary cost. Please see the government guidance on this below together with other relevant information. Please do contact us if you require any assistance. 

Advice for employers >>

Farming sectors have been impacted in many different ways. For some, business activity will have continued largely unaffected, while others with more diversified enterprises, particularly with an emphasis on sales to the public, will have had to adapt to current restrictions. The importance of the food sector has been highlighted over the last few weeks, together with our vulnerability. Our supply chains may appear infallible, but the reality is rather different when times get tough. Fortunately, food supply has not been the issue although distribution has proved more troublesome particularly when the public panic-buy goods.

Any immediate consequences for the rented sector must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Landlords and tenants have worked through difficult times before (the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001 being one example) and it is important to discuss the issues if the impact cannot be absorbed into the normal cycle of rent variations.  For many farmers, factors far beyond COVID-19 will have created difficulties and of course the continued uncertainty around Brexit remains. The outcome of those negotiations may be far more important to the whole industry than our present short-term difficulties.     

The dedicated Coronavirus area of the NFU website provides a wealth of useful information on many sectors.
For comprehensive advice regarding required adaptations to property management operations, please go to the dedicated page on the Government website

The majority of The Rural Payments Agency offices are now closed. All online and email services continue (please ensure your email address is registered as restrictions exist). Please find below the link to the latest information on the RPA website and the dedicated area of the Government's Coronavirus website for advice that covers farmers, landowners and rural businesses. 

If you require any further assistance, please let us know.

Information for farmers landowners and rural businesses >>
Basic payment scheme >>

The rural sector has suffered from a reduced workforce due to movement restrictions and self-isolation requirements. This has put a strain on some operations, particularly in the arable and vegetable sectors, where a wet winter put a greater emphasis on spring work. The government has temporarily relaxed the right-to-work checks and the NFU is lobbying for seasonal horticultural workers to be recognised as essential workers. 

Already there are a number of recruitment schemes that seek to bridge this gap, connecting businesses that have a need for seasonal workers with those willing to work. The partnership of HOPS, Fruitful, Concordia, ALP and the NFU is one of the larger schemes. It is administered by HOPS and can be accessed here.

Farm shops have proved to be a vital service to local communities during the Codid-19 pandemic. Some people who had never ventured into a farm shop are finding a whole new world of quality food away from the supermarkets they have become accustomed to.

Farm shops have adapted in different ways, some closing and relying on a delivery only service whilst others have remained open and enhanced their offerings. Let’s hope that the forced experience for some local communities will have changed the way many now shop. Perhaps this is a sliver of silver in the current cloud.

If you require any further assistance, please let us know.

For advice on all matters that relate to development and planning, please visit our dedicated area.
For advice on all matters related to residential property, please visit our residential page
For advice on all matters related to commercial property, please visit our commercial page.
The Government and devolved administrations have increased the Discount for Business Rates from 1/3 discount to 100% for eligible businesses regardless of rateable value. Please refer to government guidance and contact us if you require advice.

The government and devolved administrations have introduced a variety of packages such as business rates holidays and cash grants to support eligible retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. Please refer to the government guidance and contact us if you require any further advice.

There are two main schemes: 

  • A lending facility for large businesses to provide low cost commercial paper. This is a type of short term unsecured debt to help the short term liquidity of large corporates.
  • Business interruption loans of up to £5m with no interest due for first six months for SMEs. Agricultural businesses are able to access this scheme, but with even lower rates.

Please refer to government guidance and contact us if you require advice.

For retail, hospitality or leisure businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 and who do not have an insurance policy that covers them for pandemics, grants of up to £25,000 per business is available to bridge any cash flow gaps. 

All small businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief will be given cash grants of £10,000.

Please refer to government guidance and contact us if you require advice.

In Wales only, legislation has been introduced to extend the SAF (Single Application Form) deadline to 15th June. SAF customers will be notified when the legislation takes effect. If you think you might not be able to submit your application in time, you should contact the RPW Customer Contact Centre and contact us if you require specific advice relating to any of these issues.
During the coronavirus lockdown, it may be difficult to find contractors and surveyors to visit occupied properties in order to carry out testing and/or essential maintenance. In certain circumstances, failure to carry out tests or maintenance could impact upon insurance validation – this includes, but not limited to: gas safety certificates, fire extinguisher servicing, chimney sweeping, electrical certification, PAT testing, and legionella checks for water and heating systems. In such cases, we recommend that you communicate (in writing) with your insurance company in the first instance to alert them to the issue and confirm that you are taking all reasonable steps to make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible. Please also ensure that you advise the occupiers of the situation, and make a record to demonstrate that you have done everything that you could reasonably be expected to do to comply with the requirements in the circumstances.

View government advice >> 
View Gas Safe Register advice >> 

You can also use the ‘find an engineer’ functions on the following websites to search by postcode:

Gas Safe Register >> 
NICEIC >>  
HETAS >>
OFTEC >>  
 

National Farmers Union
There is a wealth of information available at the NFU website. Some is available to everyone and some requires a membership login to access. Click here to find out more.

Country Land and Business Association
The CLA has pulled together a large amount of information for their members. Some is available to everyone and some requires a membership login to access. Click here to find out more.

UK Government
The Government has a dedicated area for supporting businesses through this current pandemic. Click here to find out more.

As well as a dedicated area for farmers, landowners and rural businesses. Click here to find out more.

Seasonal Labour Scheme
Connecting businesses that have a need for seasonal workers with those willing to work. A partnership of HOPS, Fruitful, Concordia, ALP and the NFU. Click here to find out more.

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@ Tim Jones
Tim Jones
FRICS
Partner - Head of Rural Division
01223 346609 email me about Tim
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Tim is head of the firm's Rural Division and of the Cambridge office, although he spends a considerable amount of time in London.  He has over 20 years experience in advising institutional and private clients on a very wide range of rural business issues, including sales and purchases, strategic advice and valuations.  He often works with specialists in other divisions of the firm to provide clients with a fully integrated property service.  Tim lives near Newmarket and has a keen interest in country pursuits, encouraged constantly by his two children.

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