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Jeremy's Blog 7th January 2022: Land Use Competition

This article by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 6th January 2022

The growing competition for land use is a key theme at this week’s Oxford Farming Conference, starting with the CAAV’s presentation on Farming and Land Use: Having Control. Forestry, looking to the low carbon supply chain as a lucrative market more than offsetting, is buoyant and competing for a wider range of lower value farmland, notably in Scotland and Wales. Renewable energy sees larger areas as solar farms. New markets are emerging for biodiversity, carbon, flood mitigation and other environment transactions.

DEFRA has unveiled something of the Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes to focus 60 per cent of support money on a small fraction of land. With SFI and new rates for Countryside Stewardship, they are to be priced to be attractive, helping the government meet its binding targets but not so much as to exclude private money which the government wants to “crowd in”. Landscape Recovery will have to involve private money.

That puts farming on its mettle to use the transition period to improve its commercial performance. George Eustice, seeing no current correlation between the size of the farmed area and output, had told last month’s CLA conference last month that:

“almost 60% of agricultural output came from just 8% of farmers operating on just a third of land in England”.

Improving productivity, that is farming’s efficiency and competitiveness, will be key with more businesses needing to deliver the performance of the best while these are the businesses that tend to give better environmental performance. Having the right people on the land that suits them may see substantial changes in who is farming what land and how it is done.

There is change for commercial uses as well. England has made major changes to its General Permitted Development Order to allow changes between retail and other commercial property and to residential (with Wales now consulting on the former). England has also simplified its Use Classes Order so that it is no longer even development to change use between a shop, an office, a restaurant and unintrusive light industry. Facing major commercial pressures, town centre changes may now be outside much planning control.

However, there is growing control over residential uses, responding to the pressure on housing. Wales may only be the first to consult on new use classes for second homes and holiday lets, perhaps adding value to existing ones.

Our ability to advise on land use and related values will be important to clients.

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