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DEFRA has recently published its consultation document on the future of agricultural policy in England after we leave the EU.  The document is entitled, “Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit” and this title gives a clear indication of the direction of travel that is envisaged by government.

Within the document it is stated that, “we want a more dynamic, more self-reliant agriculture industry as we continue to compete internationally, supplying products of the highest standards to the domestic market and increasing exports. But, alongside this, we want a reformed agricultural and land management policy to deliver a better and richer environment in England.

“We will incentivise methods of farming that create new habitats for wildlife, increase biodiversity, reduce flood risk, better mitigate climate change and improve air quality by reducing agricultural emissions.”

The document is full of similar aspirations but is lacking in any real detail as to how the new agricultural policies and support payments will be implemented to achieve the government’s aspirations.  Our concern is that the desire for increased efficiency and competitiveness may compete head on with many of the environmental goals government is looking to achieve.  

Further, as little detail has been provided regarding the proposed new agricultural support system, other than it seems likely that all direct payments will be phased out by 2024, farmers are left feeling uncertain as to what is to come.  This is particularly worrying for beef and sheep farmers where such direct payments currently represent their “profit” in most years.

So it appears the consultation document is strong on ambition but still short on detail other than the pledge to take away payments.  We feel there does need to be a sensible transition phase to allow farmers to adapt to new domestic policies without leaving them exposed to increased competition from abroad and reduced support at home.

Until detail of the new support system is known uncertainty will remain and going forward if the new system is to be successful in guiding farming businesses to achieve the government’s goals, then there will need to be some “profit” built into the payments otherwise there will be no incentive to take up the environmental options.  This could be counterproductive if as a result farmers are forced to go all out for efficiency and increased production as the only viable means of economic survival.

If you are a farmer or landowner and are going to read and respond to one consultation paper in your lifetime, this is probably the one for you.  It is your chance to make your views known about the emerging agricultural policy in England which will forge the future for the next generation of farmers.  The document can be found at here.

For further information and advice please contact:

James Stephen
01823 428860

On 12 February, Ofgem finally released confirmation of the long awaited Tariff Guarantee scheme for the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) subsidy. The guarantees, which will lock in the prevailing RHI subsidy rate at the time of application, will be available for biomass, CHP, Ground Source Heat Pumps, Geothermal and Biogas sites of a minimum scale.

In order to make an application, a site must have both planning consent and a viable grid connection, and will then need to provide evidence of financial close (being the availability and commitment of funding for the project) within three weeks of the original application.

The scheme will run up to 31 January 2020, with the budget allocated to Tariff Guarantees open to reviewed by the Sectary of State, depending on the level of uptake.

Ofgem has said that it expects the scheme to open in ‘April 2018’ but has not confirmed the exact date.

Given the corresponding proposal to uplift the tariffs available for new Biogas plants, we expect a strong uptake once the scheme opens and so clients are advised to ready an application ASAP.

For further information and advice please contact:

Peter Robinson
Senior Energy Specialist
0113 203 1096

The Government has released a raft of measures to address the ‘national housing crisis’ which includes revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), reformation of developers contributions, updates to National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPG), and various associated papers.

The NPPF was created almost 6 years ago in an attempt to streamline over 1,000 pages of planning policy into a single document. Although it has remained unchanged since its release, the Government has produced a number of supplementary documents including the NPPG and written ministerial statements to help dispel the lingering ambiguity derived from the streamlining process.  

The latest revision has its first dedicated ‘Rural Housing’ section and in essence local authorities are encouraged to bring forward affordable housing sites in rural areas on the proviso that some housing for private sale will also be permitted.

It is no longer sufficient for local authorities to merely state they have 5 years' worth of sites that have the potential to be delivered, they must now prove delivery of the housing. To further reduce ambiguity, the NPPF allows local authorities to refer to their plan as ‘recently adopted’ if it has been within the last 18 months.

A greater level of clarity is also provided to ascertain the meaning of sustainability in rural settlements. The NPPF recognises that smaller settlements rely on the services of one another and therefore the interplay between them can help achieve development in settlements which do not benefit from their own array of services. This is a positive step forward which largely echoes the findings of the Matthew Taylor review, which highlights concerns that rural communities are becoming the enclave of the wealthy and retired. Supporting the vitality of rural communities through housing delivery is key to stopping the diminution of services and businesses. The opportunity to construct new individual homes in the countryside remains limited to rural workers, including those taking majority control of a farm business.

In further efforts to alleviate the ‘national housing crisis’, the Government proposes stricter rules for developers by tightening the loophole of viability assessments in a bid to ensure local planning policies to support affordable housing are deliverable financially. Reforms to the current system of developer contributions will include a new strategic infrastructure tariff, which local authorities will be able to levy to help pay for new infrastructure needed as a result of the new housing.

Whilst many of the revisions to the NPPF are welcome, a balance needs to be achieved to ensure developers can create both affordable housing and homes for private sale.  

Additional contribution requirements, particularly in areas where the housing market is slower, could negatively impact the financial viability of the scheme, so land owners and developers must achieve a reasonable profit to unlock potential sites. A ‘one size, fits all’ approach to developer contributions should be discouraged and each site should be considered in the context of its local area.

For further information and advice please contact:

Charlene Sussums-Lewis
01743 213261

@ Tim Jones
Tim Jones
Partner - Head of Rural Division
01223 346609 email me about Tim
@ James Stephen
James Stephen
01823 428860 email me about James
@ Charlene Sussums Lewis
Charlene Sussums-Lewis
07713 101 621 email me about Charlene

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.

I can provide advice on:

James is a Partner who heads up the South West Rural team based in Taunton.  He specialises in rural estate management, landlord and tenant matters, valuation, compulsory purchase and compensation, rural grant and subsidy regimes, rural planning issues and farm and estate diversification opportunities.

He is a RICS registered valuer and appointed valuer for the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (AMC).

James has two children that absorb much of his free time but during the odd window of opportunity he enjoys fly fishing, playing tennis and cricket and is an armchair rugby enthusiast.

I can provide advice on:

Charlene is a Chartered Planning and Development Surveyor and advises a wide range of clients across Shropshire, Cheshire, Powys and North Wales on matters relating to individual planning proposals and long term strategic promotion of land for development. She has expertise in rural, residential and commercial development projects, advising private estates, farmers, commercial property owners and developers. 

I can provide advice on:

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