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This latest EU funding has supported the launch of  the Countryside Productivity Scheme – Adding value to Agri-food and improving farm productivity. As the names suggest, they are targeted at two audiences, those looking to add value to an agricultural product and those looking to improve farming productivity and efficiency. The maximum grant rate is 40%, up to £1,000,000, so there are opportunities for large and innovative projects. The minimum grant is £35,000.

Examples of eligible projects under the Countryside Productivity Scheme include:

  • On farm butchery and meat processing equipment, which can include building erection/extensions
  • Dairy product processing such as bottling lines, refrigeration facilities etc.
  • Grain processing equipment (collaborative projects only)
  • Robotic equipment to aid crop and livestock production such as robotic milkers or robotic weeders
  • Increasing use of renewable energy by improving storage and distribution such as heat exchangers and battery storage for renewable energy
  • The use of LED wavelength controlled lighting to aid crop production
  • More efficient use of livestock slurries, manures and digestate such as advanced digestate processing systems or precision slurry application systems

Most of the schemes are open to businesses that are either new start-ups or existing business who would like to expand, however it should be noted that generators of renewable energy, i.e. solar panels, ground source heat pumps, cannot be funded. Efficiency funding is available for expenditure on the efficient use of the energy once it has been generated.

Inevitably, there are a few pre-requisites to all EU schemes:

  1. If planning consent is required for any element of your project, for example, if you are looking to erect a new building to house a butchery unit, the planning consent must have been granted before a grant application will be considered.
  2. A project that has already started will be ineligible which means that orders and deposits etc. cannot be placed before a grant application has been approved.
  3. Payment of the grant monies is retrospective. Proof of payment must be submitted as part of the application to cover the full cost of the project, including VAT. When making a claim, evidence must be provided to show that the applicant owns the item, so for example hire-purchase items will not be eligible until the final instalment has been paid.
  4. Other than for smaller items, three quotes must be provided for all items of expenditure.   

Should you need funding support, our AMC Agents can discuss preferential rates currently available on fixed rates of interest for up to 30 years, which could compliment any investment.

For further information or to find out how we can help you with a grant application, contact Steven McLaughlin.

Steven McLaughlin FRICS, FAAV
Partner, Head of Rural Property Valuation
01865 404446
Steven.McLaughlin@carterjonas.co.uk

The Government’s recently released Clean Growth Strategy, delivering clean and economic growth for the future, emphasises that the plethora of new measures to enhance energy efficiency within the built environment introduced in recent years from Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), to the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), and Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) Phase 2, will be simplified and the bar will be raised. For rural landlords, this can present opportunities if they plan ahead now.

Consider the new requirements in relation to MEES. From 1 April 2018, a new legal standard for minimum energy efficiency will apply to rented commercial buildings and domestic privately rented properties. From this date, landlords of non-domestic and domestic privately rented properties within the scope of the MEES regulations must not renew existing tenancies or grant new tenancies if the building has less than the minimum energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of E unless the landlord registers an exemption.

On first glance many landlords of rural properties are likely to be disadvantaged by MEES, the most obvious threat being the financial cost of upgrading non-compliant buildings and the potential loss of income if a property cannot be rented out. With the right planning however, there is a chance to explore new lease and asset management options.

Early engagement with tenants could result in establishing a so-called ‘green lease’. Here the environmental management and costs of the property, such as energy efficiency improvements and utility bills are shared for the benefit of both parties. Landlords could also look to explore the potential to increase asset value and rental value through making energy efficiency improvements and combining these with other retrofit upgrades.

Failure to comply with the regulations carries substantial penalties and landlords are urged to act now and seek advice on how they might be affected by the system, including getting to grips with the listed building exemptions. Steps which should be taken include:

  • Auditing portfolios to understand which properties are within the scope of MEES regulations and whether exemptions might apply
  • Understanding how lease terms, break dates, renewals dates and planned refit periods fit with the MEES timetable

    If it is established that a building or portfolio will be affected by MEES, landlords will need to take measures to produce a bespoke “Energy Efficiency Plan” for their buildings to implement any necessary energy efficiency improvements, aligned with the building life cycle. This should include, model EPC rating scenarios based upon various improvement strategies, finding the most cost-effective improvement, as well as fully costed, investment-grade proposals for achieving the minimum standards required to meet the seven-year payback test.

This may seem like a lot of admin, but this is only one stage on a journey to clean growth and the exercise could also support recommendations for new energy projects, particularly in relation to commercial property, such as solar PV, battery storage and even electric charging points. The more we start to consider operations, assets and energy in totality, the more benefits will be garnered in the long-term.

Richard Palmer
Associate Partner, Infrastructure & Energy
01865 404417
Richard.palmer@carterjonas.co.uk

A bone of contention for almost every landowner are public rights of way, particularly for those landowners who own land close to the urban fringe, or with development potential.

Many landowners who challenge those who are trespassing will be met with “but I have a right to roam!” a term which has been commonly used by ramblers since the Countryside and Rights of Way Act implemented in 2000, and applies to “Access Land” over common land, mountains, moors, heaths and downs, being predominantly rural and privately owned.

So what about your private farm land, providing this is not registered as Access Land (this can be verified on here ), and if there is no public right of way then the claim “I have a right to roam” does not apply.

Public rights of way over your land can be nuisance, interrupt farming activity, expose your property to the general public and can ultimately devalue your land and assets for future generations.

The difficulty is that once a public right of way is in situ, whilst it can be possible to divert it, it can also be an extremely costly both financially and in time.

So what do you do?

  • Do you rent the land out and put a clause into the documents to say that any tenant is to use its best endeavours to prevent a public right of way being created? Is this enough?
  • Do you erect signage to say private land keep off? Is this enough?
  • Do you make diary notes to say who you told off and when?

 
The signage and diary notes are great, however they will not necessarily provide protection. You can however deposit an application to the Local Authority which can protect your land for  up to 20 years against new footpaths being used for public rights of way. 

The deposit system also extends to protection against common land, and when you protect your land against public rights of way as well as common registrations at the same time, most local authorities offer a discounted fee.

There is an incentive for landowners to get this process underway now, as the Deregulation Act, which received royal assent in 2015, is likely to come into force soon.

Different local authorities operate slightly different systems and with our knowledge and contacts, we  have helped many landowners protect their land.

For further information please contact Jack Sharpe.

Jack Sharpe MRICS, FAAV
Surveyor, Rural
01223 326814
Jack.Sharpe@carterjonas.co.uk

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Tim Jones
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Partner - Head of Rural Division
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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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