Latest Lovewell Blake/NFU farmers’ evening hears from four leading experts on planning issues facing agriculture

14.03.2024
Ryan Lincoln
Agriculture
Ryan Lincoln, Partner for Lovewell Blake

Two major new planning initiatives will have a huge impact on farmers – offering both opportunities and challenges. That was the message heard by around 60 Norfolk and Suffolk farmers at the latest joint NFU/Lovewell Blake Farmers’ Evening in Halesworth.

Ryan Lincoln, Partner for Lovewell Blake

Four speakers from Durrants addressed the issues of Biodiversity Net Gain and Class Q Permitted Development Rights at the event, as well as updating on Local Development Plans, Rural Housing Policies in the region, land values, and the latest from the Rural Payments Agency.

“We may have a jaundiced opinion of politicians and their short-term vision, but the government has had a 25 year environmental plan in place since 2018,” agricultural and commercial specialist Nick Durrant told the meeting.

“Biodiversity Net Gain will affect a good proportion of farmers here tonight, whether they are making planning applications or providing off-site BNG access for developers.  We mustn’t underestimate its significance.”

Mr Durrant outlined the timeline for the introduction of BNG, with even small-scale applications being included in the new rules from 2nd April this year.  He pointed out that whilst this would impact on farmers wanting to develop their own land, it would also provide opportunities for them to provide ‘managed habitats’ on behalf of developers on a commercial basis.

Mr Durrant’s colleague Jasmine Philpott, who heads up the planning team at Durrants, explained the simplified planning procedures involved with Class Q Permitted Development Rights, which allow farmers to redevelop agricultural buildings for residential use without applying for full planning permission in certain circumstances.

Ms Philpott said that specific criteria have to be met to qualify for Class Q PDR, including  limits on the number and size of dwellings created, and the size of the development overall.  Only buildings which have been in agricultural use are eligible (and this does not include those used for equestrian purposes, for example), and there is a strict limit of three years between permission being granted and the development being finished (as opposed to traditional planning consent, where the developer has to start the development within three years of permission being granted).

Turning to the subject of land values, rural/valuation surveyor Felicity Thornett reported on trends across arable land, marshland and amenities land. 

She said that in general arable prices were strong, but varied considerably according to location, access, irrigation availability and the size of the holding.  She reported that as the holding size increases then the buyer demographic widens, and larger blocks of arable land will appeal to buyers from further afield, with blocks of 1,000 acres plus appealing to buyers nationally.

Ms Thornett told the meeting that prices for marshland were robust, with most finding local buyers, and that amenity land, especially near residential property, had seen some very high prices paid in the past 12 months.

Finally, Richard Prentice, who heads up Durrants agricultural team, talked about the latest news from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), including the winding down of BPS payments, the introduction of the Sustainable Farming Initiative, grants available for solar power and robotics, and new regulations coming in later in the year regarding short-term holiday lets.

Lovewell Blake agricultural partner Ryan Lincoln, who chaired the event, said, “This was an extremely valuable overview of the planning issues which are facing farmers at the moment, at a time when there are many changes being introduced.  Our four speakers represented some of the leading experts on the subject in our region, and the audience found the presentations both informative and relevant.”

The event was one of a series of regular Farmers’ Evenings in Halesworth organised jointly by Suffolk Coastal NFU and chartered accountants Lovewell Blake.  Details of forthcoming events will be posted on our events page

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