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DEFRA launches new online resource for 'natural capital'

23 January 2020

DEFRA has launched a new online resource "to help ensure better environmental decision-making by valuing our 'natural capital'".  The 'Enabling a Natural Capital Approach' (ENCA) resource is available on the GOV.UK website and brings together guidance, data, analytical tools and case studies to "help policy makers, businesses, landowners and public sector organisations make better planning decisions in order to protect and boost natural capital."

England's Environmental Bodies outline shared vision on tackling climate change

23 January 2020

The Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and Natural England have outlined a shared "vision" and practical actions to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies, in response to the Committee on Climate Change's "Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK" report published today.

RPA issues update on BPS, Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship 2019 Payments and 2020 Plans

22 January 2020

The RPA has issued a Press Release giving an update on progress with making BPS, Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Environmental Stewardship (ES) 2019 payments, as well as indicative 2020 plans for all of these schemes . The key points are summarised below:-

  • Almost 97% of eligible BPS claimants should have received a BPS 2019 payment by 20th January 2020 (overall worth of £1.69 billion);
  • £109 million of CS/ES 2019 payments made (more than double what was paid out by this time last year);
  • BPS 2020 application window, as well as CS and ES annual revenue claim window should open in March 2020;
  • CS application window for agreements with a 1st January 2021 start date should open in February 2020.

Beware dangers of telecoms masts

21 January 2020

Landowners are being warned of the hidden risks and responsibilities associated with having telecommunications masts on their land.

The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) is urging landowners to request information on radiation exclusion zones from operators of telecoms masts located on their land.

Though non-ionising, significant levels of exposure to the radio waves emitted by base stations on telecoms masts can affect health, requiring exclusion zones to protect people, says Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the CAAV. With the roll out of 5G, these exclusion zones will be expanded significantly as the range of potentially dangerous radio waves is far greater than for 4G.

Although guidelines for these exclusion zones; set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP), are mandatory in the UK, mast operators are only required to self-certificate compliance when they make a planning application. The government does not require operators to give details of zones to those they affect.

The guidelines state that exclusion zones for workers and the public should be mapped by the operator. Exclusion zones are typically governed by the direction of the mast and the power being used, and are usually above ground level, with height exclusion depending on the height of the antennae. However, there is no requirement for operators to notify owners, site neighbours or the public of these areas.

“Usually, that means that nobody but the operator knows the areas in which people might be at risk and so cannot manage liabilities,” says Mr Moody. Ofcom, the industry regulator, has no duties related to exposure to electromagnetic field emissions.

When applying for planning permission for a larger mast, operators are only required to confirm the mast will comply with ICNIRP guidelines and do not have to disclose the exclusion boundaries; meaning that neither the owner nor the planning authority is able to assess the effect of the mast on buildings, land or other activities.

Furthermore, not even this declaration is required where the mast is within permitted development rights.  Similarly, where a mast is upgraded from 4G to 5G, the operator does not have to make this declaration or even highlight the increased size of exclusion zones.

For landowners, this means there can be unforeseen issues with buildings, which could be within the exclusion zone unbeknown to the site owner, potentially putting workers or visitors at risk.

It can limit the construction of new buildings both on the site owner’s land and on neighbouring sites, as an exclusion zone can extend beyond a site’s boundaries. However, the landowner and the planning office are unlikely to be aware of the extent of the exclusion zone.

“Landowners may also find themselves in a difficult situation whereby existing buildings are made redundant by exclusion zones,” says Mr Moody. “As landowners are not permitted to request the removal of apparatus from their land on these grounds, this could potentially cause costly issues whether sterilising the use of land or carrying liability.”

“In addition, providing a safe working environment for employees is a legal requirement of any employer, so any landowner with employees needs to take account of potential hazards for those working,” he adds.  It’s therefore important to obtain full ICNIRP drawings and site-specific radio frequency plans so that the exclusion zone can be understood and to comply with legal obligations.

“It’s also important to ask for information on any upgrades to the mast, such as from 4G to 5G,” advises Mr Moody. “Should an operator refuse to supply this information to the site provider, this should be cause for concern.”

Many older agreements passed responsibilities to the landowner, often without their knowledge, so it’s vital if negotiating a new agreement that landowners are aware of the issues. Terms should hold the operator fully liable for losses and claims arising from the mast, he explains.

Additionally, site owners may wish to stipulate contractual terms restricting the expansion of exclusion zones, require the site to be switched off for the landowner or others to carry out work within the exclusion zone and make operators liable for any necessary staff training.

“Landowners may be entirely unaware of the situations they are in, which could lead to all sorts of issues down the line,” warns Mr Moody. “It may be a shocking revelation to a lot of people and I would suggest getting advice and taking action if you are affected.”

Village Halls have received £1.2 million funding under Government Grant Scheme

21 January 2020

Village halls in England have received £1.2 million funding to assist with improvements such as roof repairs, refurbishing kitchens and creating new meeting rooms. This funding has been provided as part of the Government's Village Halls Improvement Grant Scheme which has a total fund of £3 million available. Applications can still be made for grants of up to £75,000 (20% of the total eligible costs of a project). Further information on applying can be found on the Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) website.

Agriculture Bill is a monumental step

16 January 2020

The return of the Agriculture Bill is a welcome announcement for farmers and the entire industry; giving shape to developing post-Brexit policy in England.

“This is a monumental moment for agriculture,” says Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV). “This passing of the Agriculture Bill will be our generation’s 1947 moment; where we have a life changing opportunity to review the national expectations of agriculture and set out the tools and support to achieve this.”

Notably the Bill has recognised the importance of soil quality as a ‘public good’ which can be supported by the money being moved away from Basic Payment. “This is a really positive step and we can now look forward to seeing how this will be delivered,” says Mr Moody.

“The new policies, moving more towards creating market in food production, land use and the environment, will open up enormous changes for the industry. However, many producers are focused on what will happen with trade and this is an area on which farmers should keep one eye with their own businesses in mind.”

The clear transition window for phasing out BPS from 2021 to 2027 means changes can be implemented sensibly.

“This timeframe is vital for farmers and their advisers to review their businesses, using the time to plan for the eroding of BPS, and handle and deliver the necessary changes,” says Mr Moody. “The budget for farming has been guaranteed for the next five years, but regardless of this, attention needs to be turned to business improvement and efficiency, skills and innovation investment, new enterprises and generational changes.

“Letting land out to the right people should be a key part of the changes we see under the Agriculture Bill, but we wait to see what the modernisation of tenancies will entail,” he adds.

Preparing for these changes is bigger than Defra and will involve all associated with the industry. “The CAAV is part of these changes and its members, as trusted practical advisers to farmers and landowners, are ready to assist in the complex discussion, decisions and actions needed on each farm as we make a new future,” says Mr Moody.

“This is the starting gun. Action and movement need to happen in the sector. The time of indecisiveness is over and now is the moment for change.”

 

Agriculture Bill to be introduced into Parliament

16 January 2020

The Agriculture Bill is to be introduced into Parliament later today. A news release is available on the GOV.UK website. It will give the legislative framework for aspects including:-

  • Phasing out direct payments over the seven year "agricultural transition" period which will start from next year (2021) and see direct payments reduced to nil by 2028;
  • "Later in the agricultural transition", "de-link" direct payments, removing the need to "farm the land" to receive payment; and
  • Paying farmers for the delivery of "public goods";

Edwin Poots named as Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister

14 January 2020

Edwin Poots, DUP MLA for Lagan Valley, has been appointed as Minister for Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Theresa Villiers delivers speech at Oxford Farming Conference

08 January 2020

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Teresa Villers MP, has delivered a speech, 'A vision for future farming', at the Oxford Farming Conference earlier today. The speech can be viewed on the GOV.UK website.

Extended Farming Recovery Fund opens for applications

06 January 2020

The Government confirmed in November 2019 that the Farming Recovery Fund would be extended for farmers affected by flooding in parts of South Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and the Midlands. This extended fund opens for applications today (6th January) and farmers can apply for grants of between £500 and £25,000 to assist with repair costs, re-cultivation and replacing items such as damaged gates. The close date for applications to this extended fund is 31st July 2020. A news release on the GOV.UK website gives further details. The application form and Handbook are due to be published on the GOV.UK website later today.

Chancellor confirms £3 billion funding to farmers for 2020

02 January 2020

The Chancellor has confirmed that just under £3 billion of funding will be made available to farmers for 2020. The £2.852 billion will be used to maintain the funding for direct payments (the Basic Payment, the greening payment, the Young Farmer payment and Scottish Voluntary Coupled Payments) at the same level as 2019 and to supplement the remaining EU funding for the UK's Rural Development Programmes. Further details are available on the GOV.UK website.

Queen's Speech at State Opening of Parliament on 19th December 2019

19 December 2019

The State Opening of Parliament took place earlier today and the Queen's Speech set out the government's agenda for the next session of Parliament. It outlined 29 Bills, including the reintroduction of the Agriculture Bill and the Environment Bill. Further information is available in the Queen's Speech December 2019 background briefing notes.

Estate Agents Fined for Price Fixing

19 December 2019

Three estate agents in Berkshire have been fined a total of more than £600,000 for establishing a cartel to set minimum commission rates for residential property sales. A fourth agent involved in the cartel avoided a fine by reporting the activity to the Competition and Markets Authority.

The CMA has a Stop Cartels campaign, details of which can be found at https://stopcartels.campaign.gov.uk/

RPA issues BPS 2019 payments to over 92% of claimants

17 December 2019

The RPA has made BPS 2019 payments to over 92.4% of claimants (approximately 79,000) during the first two weeks since the payment window opened on 2nd December 2019. Further details are available on the GOV.UK website.

Rural Start-up Fund

11 December 2019

The Prince's Countryside Fund and Forest Holidays have joined together to offer a £5,000 start-up grant to a rural entrepreneur for a new rural business venture. The closing date for applications is 6th March 2020 and further details are available on the Prince's Countryside Fund website.

Avian Flu confirmed in Mid Suffolk

11 December 2019

DEFRA has confirmed that Low Pathogenic Avian Flu (H5 strain) has been found on a chicken farm near Athelington in Mid Suffolk. A 1km restriction zone has been placed around the affected farm. Further information is available on the GOV.UK website.

Farmers in England begin receiving payments today for 2019

02 December 2019

The RPA has started making BPS 2019 payments to farmers in England from today (2nd December). A press release is available on the GOV.UK website.

The Cultivate Conference 2020 - Offer for CAAV Members (Members Only)

27 November 2019

CAAV Members can benefit from a discounted ticket price to attend the inaugural Cultivate Conference which takes place on Wednesday, 29th January 2020, at Heaton House Farm, near Macclesfield.

Why attend?

Change is a constant factor, never more-so than in the rural and agricultural sector. Cultivate is an inaugural business growth conference focused on helping rural businesses and individuals with a growth mindset to innovate further, to collaborate and to thrive.

It’s your opportunity to prepare for change and plan for the future. Come along and hear inspirational stories from those who’ve transformed their own rural businesses to multi-million-pound successes, and take-away effective strategies and problem-solving tactics that you can implement immediately.

What do you get as a delegate?

Cultivate is a full day business conference and rural growth summit. You’ll hear from four incredible keynote speakers, talking specifically about challenges and successes in the rural field. You’ll have the chance to ask questions and learn from their own experiences.

Then you’ll take part in two mastermind sessions, highly focused, highly effective workshops that will help you pinpoint obstacles in your own growth strategy, find ways to overcome them, and walk away with effective tactics that you can use to start growing your business immediately.

Breakfast, lunch, teas/coffees and an after-conference drink are all included, along with plenty of opportunity to network with like-minded individuals too.

The offer

The normal ticket price is £175 plus VAT, but CAAV Members can attend for £125 plus VAT.

To book and take advantage of this offer, simply contact Simon Haley on simon@srhagribusiness.co.uk .

More information about the conference, the programme and speakers can be found here

Video of Jeremy Moody presenting at the Innovation & Diversification Wales event

26 November 2019

Take a look at the video of Jeremy Moody's presentation on 'Preparing for Change' at the Innovation & Diversification Wales event.

View Video

Actively farm to claim agricultural tax reliefs

26 November 2019

Anyone wanting to claim agricultural property relief from Inheritance Tax on a farmhouse or business property relief as a farmer must be actively farming in the last years of life, a recent Tribunal has confirmed.

According to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV), the First Tier Tribunal decision in Charnley v HMRC demonstrates the need for clear evidence to show that the farmer is actively farming in their final years to benefit from such tax relief.

In this case, HMRC argued that the farmer in question, Thomas Gill, had let his land on grazing licences, while the executors maintained he had continued to actively farm until his death.

The Tribunal concluded that by undertaking the day-to-day husbandry of the grass and animals, Mr Gill had been actively farming, so the farmhouse qualified for Agricultural Property Relief (APR) and the machinery for Business Property Relief (BPR).

“Fundamentally, the deceased needs to have been undertaking positive husbandry of the grass as a farmer in the last two years of life to achieve full relief,” explains Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the CAAV. “If they do not, while the land could still qualify for full APR on its agricultural value, the house and any other business assets would not qualify for APR or BPR.”

The work undertaken needs to be farming husbandry, not just maintenance of property like fences, hedges, ditches and gates, says Mr Moody. “Other cases have failed on this point. Had Mr Gill – for health or other reasons - not been managing the grass and looking after the stock grazing his land; despite not owning them, it is likely that he would have been found not to be farming and so not eligible for APR or BPR.”

Good evidence of husbandry should come in the form of contemporary records, invoices, field books and witnesses to the facts, he adds. “In this case the grazier’s testimony as to what actually happened on the ground was critical – summarising it as Mr Gill farming his land using the grazier’s animals.”

The background and history of the farm may also be useful, presenting an evolving business over the decades, not just judged as a snapshot, says Mr Moody. “The story is a key part of the matrix of facts and circumstances on which the case will be judged.”

But however long a dwelling may have been used as a farmhouse, it will only qualify for APR if it was used as such in the final two years of life, he warns.

“It is fundamental that those claiming APR on a farmhouse and BPR on other assets show that the deceased was actively farming,” he says. “Grazing licences are not evidence enough by themselves; there must be proof that the farmer was undertaking the care of the grass being sold to the grazier.”

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