Sept 18 Newsletter - Page 12

Realising development opportunities in a post-Brexit agricultural sector
The amount of land in
agricultural use in England
increased in 2017 and
according to the Office
for National Statistics now
extends to 9.1 million hectares
or approximately 70% of
all land. A similar land use
profile exists throughout the
United Kingdom. As the U.K.
approaches Brexit and its
departure from the customs
union, the importance of
the industry to the U.K. and
the need for it to respond
positively to a range of
conflicting demands is
The agriculture sector is
accustomed with the need
to adapt to unforeseen and
changing environmental
or policy led requirements.
Uncertainty regarding the
post-Brexit farm support
system and the challenges
of evolving environmental policies aimed at
improving the capacity of the
environment to absorb the
increasing demands which
society place upon it suggest
an era of transformation for
the industry.
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Government’s recently
published A Green Future: Our
25 Year Plan to Improve the
difficult to predict, not least
because of the uncertainty
of Brexit and the potential
The diversification of farm
holdings into holiday accommodation or the capital
Environment sets out its vision
to progress a ‘new system’
of support for farmers which
focuses upon environmental
enhancement. Farmers will
play a much stronger role as
custodians of the environment
for the benefit of society.
This vision is emerging on
the ground through Defra
and Natural England led
agri-environment pilot
schemes based on Payment
by Results outcomes, whereby
farmers are encouraged to
manage land as they see fit
to produce identified environmental gains. Whilst it is
yet unclear how widely this
approach might be adopted
against the backdrop of
steadily falling self-sufficiency in food supplies,
which are down from 74
percent in 1987 to 60 percent
in 2017, this undoubtedly
marks a significant change
in the direction of post-war
agricultural policy which
has traditionally favoured
production and output.
How farmer’s best adapt is
need to increase domestic
food production. What is
clear is that there are going
to be significant challenges
and these are likely to be felt
across the industry.
Development opportunities available to the sector
continue to change, as
Government continues to
regularly update and amend
its planning policy, guidance
and ‘permitted development’
benefits of disposing of
redundant farm buildings is
not sustainable or achievable
for many farm businesses.
Other more realistic and
long-term opportunities could
include diversification into
energy generation. This could
offer the potential to offset
rising energy costs for some
holdings, whilst others might
benefit from an additional
and steady income stream
to support their agricultural
Whether further positive
changes to Class Q
permitted development
rights introduced in April 2018
allowing the wider re-use
of redundant farm buildings
meaningfully addresses the
long-term sustainability of
the sector is questionable. It
does however indicate that
the conversion of redundant
agricultural buildings is to
remain an important plank of
Government housing policy in
rural areas, from which some
farm business might benefit.
Overall the cost of producing
renewable energy continues
to fall and the risks associated
with start-up are decreasing
as the sector becomes more
experienced. Whilst the loss
of Government subsidies has
reduced the attractiveness of
some technology types such
as solar power schemes, other
technologies including battery
storage and peak power
generation (PPG) schemes
are for a number of reasons
becoming more attractive to
many farm businesses.
Vital to the success of
any proposals will be the
appropriate consideration of the individual circumstances of each farm
business and the feasibility
of technology options. This
assessment is best made in
consideration of the farming
activity which takes place
and the wider constraints
which might influence
any planning consideration. Many upland areas in
northern England are likely
to be the focus of environmental capacity led farming
practices. Large swathes of
upland England also sit within
designated landscapes and
public perception, as well
as government guidance,
favours some energy
generation technology over
others. In other areas existing
predominately dairy or arable
farm businesses might benefit
from other specific technology
types, such as Anaerobic
Digestion (AD).
In a post-Brexit economy which is likely to be much more reliant on domestic food
production and within an agricultural sector increasingly tasked with enhancing the
capacity of the environment to absorb human induced changes, it will be necessary
for farm business to respond as proactively as ever in order to maximise development
opportunities which safeguard their long-term viability.
Adam Perry, Senior Planner in the Kendal office has extensive
knowledge of farm diversification gained due to his previous
work within the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and
ongoing project work within Cumbria.
Please call Adam to discuss any of your diversification
needs on 01539 739000.
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