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Agriculture is on the cusp of a technology-led age that will prove to be as significant as the time when tractors first replaced horses. That’s the vision of Small Robot Company co-founder Sam Watson Jones. Sam says that the robot technology about to be unleashed will have a fundamental impact that will not just change the way landowners farm, but the way the countryside looks.

Read the full article here.

Carter Jonas Taunton Office have successfully obtained Class Q prior approval to convert this modern agricultural barn into a single five bedroom residential dwelling incorporating a double garage. The site was located within Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset.

Following the High Court Judgement of Hibbitt & Anr v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anr, many modern agricultural barn applications have been refused by Local Authorities on the grounds that the proposal involves extensive rebuilding and goes well beyond what could reasonably be described as conversion. However this recent approval continues to prove that Class Q prior notification still applies to modern agricultural buildings subject to the design.

This barn was steel portal framed with a concrete floor, with part concrete block walls with timber cladding above, beneath a pitched corrugated roof. The proposal was to retain all structural aspects of the frame, roof and part concrete block walls but replace the timber cladding and install windows and doors. The timber cladding was allowed to be removed and replaced because it did not form part of the structure of the barn and instead provided weather screen cladding. The proposal also included demolition of a bay to reduce the size of the overall barn to ensure it complied with the size restrictions set out in the legislation.

These Class Q permitted development rights provides farmers and landowners with opportunities to add value and create additional accommodation.

For further information, contact Nicola Palfrey, Senior Surveyor (nicola.palfrey@carterjonas.co.uk / 01823 428590), or your local Carter Jonas office.

The second round of the Small Grants Scheme is now open, and farmers have less than a month remaining in which to submit an application. Farmers may apply for grants of between £3,000 and £12,000, to invest in agricultural equipment. The grant represents 40% of the value of equipment purchased.

A list of 80 eligible items of equipment is available in the scheme Handbook which can be viewed at gov.uk/guidance/countryside-productivity-scheme.

The scheme is aimed at livestock, arable and horticultural producers.

Producers who successfully applied under the previous scheme may also apply for the current offering, provided that the total grant paid under both schemes is no more than £12,000 and that the grant claimed for the second round of the scheme is at least £3,000. Multiple items from the approved list may be claimed for.

Experience has shown that these grants are very useful to livestock producers seeking to update handling equipment and introduce EID systems and for arable farmers seeking to invest in GPS and precision farming technologies.

The scheme is intended to be straightforward with an online application process. It is important that applicants are registered with the RPA.

The list of eligible equipment details standard costs, maximum price and specification, so quotes are not required. However, it is important to ensure that the equipment selected meets the handbook specification. It may be necessary to double check this with the supplier or by emailing CPSGEnquiries@rpa.gov.uk, giving make, model and a link to the supplier’s website.

Applications close on September 3rd and equipment should not be purchased until funding agreement has been accepted.

Once a grant has been approved, applicants have 150 days to order, take delivery, and pay for the approved equipment. Staged payments are not available for multiple items and it may be necessary for applicants to consider the cash flow implications of this.

The final claim form will need to be submitted along with invoices, a bank statement showing proof of payment and suitable photographic evidence of the equipment on farm and operational.

This appears to be a relatively easy scheme to participate in and offers a practical range of equipment that will help farmers modernise and become more efficient. It is hoped that it will help them prepare for the future by becoming more resilient, at the same time operating with an improved environmental profile.

For further information, contact Hollie Hembrow, Associate (hollie.hembrow@carterjonas.co.uk / 01823 428598), or your local Carter Jonas office.

The following is a ‘Notified Amendment’ to the draft Agriculture Bill:

Smallholdings estates

(1) Every smallholdings authority which immediately before the commencement of Part l of this Act holds any land for the purposes of smallholdings shall review the authority’s smallholdings estate and shall, before the end of the period of eighteen months beginning with the commencement of Part 1 of this Act, submit to the Minister proposals with respect to the future management of that estate for the purposes of providing—
a. opportunities for persons to be farmers on their own account;
b. education or experience in environmental land management practices;
c. opportunities for increasing public access to the natural environment and understanding of sustainable farming; and
d. opportunities for innovation in sustainable land management practices.

(2) No land held by a smallholdings authority as a smallholding immediately before commencement of Part l of this Act is to be conveyed, transferred, leased or otherwise disposed of otherwise than—
a. in connection with the purposes listed in subsection (l); and
b. in accordance with proposes submitted under subsection (l).

(3) For the purposes of this section, “smallholdings authority” has the same meaning as in section 38 of the Agriculture Act 1970.

Parliamentary Member’s explanatory statement: This new clause would limit the disposal of smallholdings (“county farms”) by local authorities and would require local authorities to review their holding and submit proposals for future management to provide opportunities to extend access to farming, education, and innovation.

The clause, as drafted, has the potential to significantly impact on the management of Local Authority Small Holding Estates. Whilst the ambitions contained with the proposed clause are admirable as to the support it could bring to new entrants to the agricultural sector as well as increasing environmental awareness and public access to the countryside. The reforms could however come at a very substantial cost to local authorities by depleting existing revenue streams, eroding surpluses and frustrating capital receipts from future disposals or rationalisations of their holdings. 

Very few smallholdings are capable of providing a stand-alone income to tenants (and this is unlikely to improve in the years ahead) and the rents from such holdings represent a very low return on the investment value to their landlord, the Local Authority, when compared to other asset classes. This is before consideration is given to the ongoing investment such holdings require to fund day to day repairs and regular capital expenditure in new buildings and equipment. Once these factors are taken into account any Local Authority agricultural estate, as opposed to being a source of revenue capable of supporting council budgets for child and adult care or highways maintenance could very quickly become another drain on limited council income.

In addition to the above, Local Authority estates have the potential to provide occasional windfalls from disposals which can supplement council funds or in some cases provide valuable land which can be used by councils to enhance and improve local facilities such as education, housing and leisure and sports.

The proposed amendment could, in the longer term, limit prudent asset management of estates by the Authority, limiting rationalisation and development, increasing management costs, reducing revenue and delaying or potentially disposals.

The eighteen month review period referred to within the proposed amendment effectively suspends any Authority’s current management plan disrupting short-term plans until DEFRA has ratified that Authority’s future plans, in accordance with the Act.

We recommend that every authority considers carefully the implications of the above amendment to the Agriculture Bill on its agricultural estate. Assuming the most benign interpretation it has the potential to cause significant short-term disruption to the management and financial budgets of Local Authority estates. The most ferocious interpretation could lead to very substantial losses running into many millions of pounds for some Authorities as future development plans and windfalls are thwarted and management costs escalate.

Carter Jonas advises a number of local authorities on the management of agricultural estates and recommends in this case the Authorities consider any existing plans that may appear to be “in question” once this Bill enters law. Carter Jonas is able to undertake immediate reviews of estates to advise any action that could be taken in the short-term.

For further information, contact Mark Charter, Head of Estate Management (mark.charter@carterjonas.co.uk / 01865 404406), or your local Carter Jonas office.

@ Nicola Palfrey
Nicola Quick
01823 428594 email me about Nicola
@ Mark Charter
Mark Charter
Head of Estate Management
01865 404406 email me about Mark

Nicola is a Rural Chartered Surveyor, Agricultural valuer and AMC Agent based in Taunton office covering the south west. She is also a RICS registered valuer.

She undertakes a range of professional work from estate management, rural planning, compulsory purchase and compensation and valuations for a variety of purposes.  

A farmer’s daughter and wife, Nicola has strong links with the agricultural community.

I can provide advice on:

Mark is a Partner and a member of the firm's Rural Division. He is Head of Estate Management and has experience of advising private and institutional clients on all aspects of estate management, strategic advice, valuation and professional consultancy matters across the rural and residential sectors. Mark’s extensive experience in advising clients in the aforementioned areas allows him to as an expert witness in valuation and other property matters. Additionally, he is a member of the Development Committee of The Oxford Playhouse, a trustee of The Lady Nuffield Home, Oxford and is a member of the Consultee Group to The Oxfordshire Woodlands Project.

I can provide advice on:

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