Preserving the future of farming on the menu at Lincolnshire breakfast seminars

The importance of succession planning in the family farming business, the latest changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the residential housing market were all hot topics on the menu at the latest rural breakfast seminars, hosted by Savills Lincoln.

The seminars, which took place at venues throughout the county earlier this month, saw local farmers and professionals gather to hear the latest updates on issues impacting the rural community at local and national level.

Jonathan Wood, director in the rural management team at Savills Lincoln explored opportunities for local landowners, from the development land market to the agricultural land market. He talked around the reviews to the national planning system, culminating in changes announced in the 2017 Autumn Budget and the NPPF, which are likely to provide opportunities for farmers and landowners.

He comments: “The recent NPPF review includes a commitment to encourage a greater proportion of new housing on smaller sites which can come forward more quickly by requiring local plans to identify at least 20 per cent of new housing sites on land of 0.5 hectares or less.

“There are also important changes to permitted development rights already in operation under Class Q, which means that up to five smaller new homes can be created from existing farm buildings rather than three. This presents further opportunities for landowners and farmers opening up further opportunities for farmstead based development.”

Jonathan also highlighted that realistic pricing of farmland is essential. “In 2017, farmers accounted for 40 per cent of buyers, and there was a rise in purchases from institutions and lifestyle buyers, but realistic pricing remains key to securing a sale”, adds Jonathan.

Farm management consultant, Michael Mack informed the audience at each event on the importance of setting a succession plan. He says: “
At industry level we know that between 84 and 92 per cent of farms transfer between generations and it is fair to suggest that most people in farming know of at least one story where this process has resulted in splitting the family and the business. Therefore, we must ask ourselves if we could undertake the process of passing a business from generation to generation in a more positive way.”

Also on the topic of food and farming, Charles Skelton of the food and farming team at Savills Lincoln provided insight on how to make farming businesses more resilient, which focused on managing what can be controlled, measuring performance and benchmarking as key indicators for success. He also highlighted various grants available to farmers.

Charles comments: “Some farmers may have been deterred from entering Countryside Stewardship schemes in recent years, considering them to be overly complicated and onerous. The uncertainty surrounding post-Brexit agricultural support has undoubtedly made the prospect of applying even less appealing. Now the picture has changed which could provide a good opportunity to take another look as Defra has released four new simplified ways of entering the scheme.

“In his recent speech, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced that the Government will continue support for Countryside Stewardship agreements entered into before our departure from the EU. Assurance was also given that participants will not be unfairly disadvantaged when the transition is made into future arrangements.

“Looking ahead, we know far greater emphasis in terms of subsidy payments will be placed on environmental measures and having a consistent source of income over the next five years from a simple Countryside Stewardship scheme will help over the transitional period.”

Roo Fisher, head of residential sales at Savills Lincoln provided an update on Lincolnshire’s residential property market at a seminar held at Lincoln’s Washingborough Hall, whilst James Abbott, head of residential sales at Savills Stamford offered a local update for the audience at the event held at The George in the town. The pair highlighted that, according to recent Savills research, the East Midlands has been earmarked for 14.8 per cent house price growth over the five years to 2022, double the rate of London which is set to see 7.1 per cent growth.