Author: Grace Johnstone

Land and Property Professionals

We sell, rent, manage, survey, plan and advise...what can we do for you?

Bedford: 01234 351000 (Sales, lettings and viewing enquiries)
01234 352201 (Professional services and general enquiries)
Buckingham: 01280 428010

In light of recent developments relating to the COVID-19 virus, we are setting out the steps we are taking to ensure that business continues as normally as possible in these unprecedented times, whilst also protecting the health of our staff, clients and preventing the spread of the virus. 

In order to avoid spreading the virus, we are taking the following steps:

1.     Improving hygiene measures within our offices and requiring staff to follow official Government guidance to work from home where this is possible; The offices will remain open for those staff that are unable to work from home and to enable post to be received and distributed.

2.     Requiring staff with COVID-19 symptoms or anyone in their household with symptoms to stay at home in accordance with Government guidance.

3.     Requiring staff returning from abroad to self-isolate in accordance with Government guidance.

4.     Postponing all non-essential meetings and seeking to deal with matters by other methods, such as correspondence or telephone/video conferencing.

5.     If meetings are essential then a pre-screening exercise will be carried out in advance. 

6.     Restricting visitors to our offices to those with a prior appointment and in those cases, pre-screening visitors. 

Much of the professional work that we carry out can be done remotely by email and telephone. Documents are stored electronically, and we have a robust, stable, remote access system. Where staff are working from home, we are confident that there will be no disruption to service levels. You are able to find comprehensive contact details for staff members via our meet the team page.

The UK situation is evolving very fast. You can continue to contact us in the usual way, and we will deliver the high level of service you expect. 

We would appreciate your co-operation and understanding at this difficult time and our thoughts are with those affected by the virus both in the UK and around the world. 

Following the publication of the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government announced in November 2019 that it would be introducing a new £50 million scheme to encourage a rapid increase in the number of trees being planted in the UK. The Government hopes that this scheme will aid the expansion of the domestic market for utilising woodland carbon to permanently reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The Woodland Carbon Guarantee Scheme means that landowners can sell the carbon dioxide that their woodland captures to the Government. The successful participants of the scheme will be paid per Woodland Carbon Unit that their new woodlands produce.

A Woodland Carbon Unit is a measurement of a tonne of carbon dioxide, which has been ‘collected’ in a woodland verified by the Woodland Carbon Code.

The Woodland Carbon Units will be sold to the Government at a guaranteed price every five or ten years up to 2055-56. The price is determined by an online reverse auction and is Retail Price Index linked. The auctions are held every six months nationally for a period of up to five years, dependent on take up and available funds. If an auction bid is successful, the land manager will be offered a conditional 30-35 year contract by the Government.

Who can apply?

The scheme is open to land managers who have control of the land and all the activities needed to meet the obligations of the scheme for its full duration. The scheme application cannot include land:

How to apply

To apply for the scheme, land managers first need to register their project with Woodland Carbon Code and must include calculations of how much money they require (per tonne of carbon dioxide) to make their project viable. The woodland creation project will also need to be managed under the Woodland Carbon Code.

What are the benefits?

The landowner benefits with this scheme include generating a long-term stable income from woodland, as well as having the credibility of being involved with a verified scheme. You can also decide to sell the carbon credits on the open market instead of to the Government at any point, providing flexibility within the scheme.

In addition, there is also the opportunity for land managers to apply for grant support in planting and establishing the woodland through existing schemes.

For further information or to find out how our Rural Property & Business department can help you, please contact Katie.

As part of its obligations under the Climate Change Act, the Government committed in summer 2019 to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The need to switch to low carbon electricity generation in new and existing homes, businesses and the transportation system, means that there will be significant challenges in achieving the 2050 target.

Alongside other new low carbon and renewable energy generation and energy storage facilities, the Government will require more energy to be delivered from renewable sources, specifically solar farms and onshore wind farms. Planning policies for onshore wind projects are severely restricted by Government policies dating from 2015 which stated that new onshore wind farms must be in areas identified in Local and Neighbourhood Plans as being suitable. The provisions in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for onshore wind remains unnecessarily negative and it is hoped that in the light of the 2050 net zero carbon emissions target, relaxation of NPPF policies in this connection is now justified.

Onshore wind energy projects remain controversial in communities, although there is evidence to suggest that in those areas where wind turbines have been successfully developed, many of the fears of those who originally opposed the proposals have dissipated when the turbines are turning. It is hoped that the heightened climate change agenda will help to reduce the level of resistance from communities in the future.

With regard to solar farms, we have recently seen evidence of the re-emergence of solar farm developers following a reduction in solar panel prices (circa 35-40%) offsetting the loss of government support through the removal of feed-in tariffs. Solar farms by their nature tend to have less visual impact than wind farms, however grid capacity remains a vital component. There are also concerns about panel efficiency in the longer term with related issues regarding decommissioning. On the plus side, attractive rents from £800 up to £1,000 per acre per annum are available to landowners on lease terms of 25 years or more. 

There has been increasing interest in sites for batteries to enable electricity to be ‘stored’ by the grid to use at peak demand periods. By their nature these sites are less ‘land hungry’ than solar farms but are frequently an important component of renewable energy projects. 

With climate change being a priority of governments across the world, we will be monitoring the re-emergence of the renewable energy sector and opportunities for landowners.  

Robinson & Hall has achieved success with a number of solar and wind energy projects in this region and we would be pleased to assess the potential for your land.

If you have land which you consider might be suitable for renewable energy projects, please contact Andrew.

We are increasingly finding at the end of leases that the tenant has not kept up with the maintenance provisions, resulting in a damaged or dilapidated property. While a Schedule of Dilapidations served on tenants might recompense the situation, a landlord should make sure that the tenant is complying with the repairing covenants during the term of the lease.

Did you know Robinson & Hall carry out annual inspections on leasehold properties?

Robinson & Hall carry out regular inspections for all managed properties. If work is needed, a letter is issued to remind the tenant of their responsibilities under the lease and insist they maintain their building.  

Recently we were approached by the owner of a property whose tenant had put off carrying out maintenance for several years to a listed office building in Bedford. Following an inspection, we served a notice of repair on the tenant and they have now completed the required works. This has resulted in the exterior being redecorated and repaired, including repairing rotten windows and replacing damaged roof slates. The landlord’s property has been protected from further deterioration and potential reduction in value. It has also reduced the likelihood of an extensive dilapidations claim at the end of the lease leaving the landlord in a better position to re-let the property.

For more information Robinson & Hall’s inspections and how we ensure your properties are protected from deterioration and reduction in value, please contact Stuart Brown,

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced a new round of funding under the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme, with a budget of £35 million guaranteed. This figure has the potential to increase to £50 million subject to receipt of a high number of quality applications. The overall aim of the programme is to generate growth in the rural economy by granting funding to those enterprises which demonstrate they have recognised ways in which their business could be improved.

Farmers are being encouraged by the government to use the funding to diversify their income by applying for grants aimed at rural start-ups or existing businesses to purchase high specification machinery and equipment to expand their enterprises and increase opportunities.

There are three specific sectors being targeted: business development, food processing and rural tourism infrastructure. This variety highlights the move towards diversification in order to progress and succeed in the rural sector but grants are also available to develop existing agricultural enterprises. The main national priorities for funding are to create jobs, grow businesses, improve productivity through innovation and open new product markets.

In previous years, the minimum threshold for grants has been £35,000 but this has now been reduced to £20,000 to make the funding more accessible to a wider range of businesses. Up to £750,000 is available for food processing businesses, while other rural businesses can apply for as much as £175,000.

There is a RDPE Growth Programme handbook available, which can be accessed here, which contains details of eligible projects and the application process. During the last round of funding, the grants were used to construct and improve buildings, buy new equipment and for diversification projects, such as wedding venues. One example was a dairy business investing in a new processing unit which enabled them to produce higher quality fresh milk.  

The Expression of Interest (EOI) window opened on Monday 4th November 2019 with a deadline of Sunday 16th February 2020. For those who may be interested we would recommend applying early as, in the previous round, applications were dealt with on a first come first served basis.

The EOI needs to be submitted to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and its purpose is to explain the concept and existing work of your business and how a grant could improve this. If the RPA are happy that the EOI is suitable, an offer to submit a full application will be made.

For more information or to find out how our Rural Property & Business department can help you, please contact Katie.

Our clients, owners of a Bedford based residential care home were faced with an unexpected issue with their building when a moulded and intricately detailed part of their ceiling fell into a bedroom. Thankfully no one was injured. The manager of the home was unaware of the moulded ceiling as it was concealed by a suspended ceiling. As the building was Grade II listed, the owners consulted a Conservation Officer who guided them to use us due to our relevant experience for specifying and overseeing the restoration of listed buildings.

Due to the building being listed the repair work needed to comply with the Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act 1990, which ensures any works maintain and preserve the building due to the special historical or architectural interest.

Following inspection to assess the cause of failure and the condition of the remainder of the lath and plaster ceiling, Stuart Brown, Chartered Building Surveyor at Robinson & Hall, was able to call on the services of a Bedford based specialist in decorative plaster mouldings. The intricate detailing of the cornice and suspended ceiling were quickly restored allowing the resident to re-occupy the room without significant delay.

For further advice on the repair of listed buildings, please contact Stuart.

Auction House, operating as Auction House Robinson & Hall in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, has won the gold award as Residential Auction Service of the Year in the 2019 Negotiator Awards – widely recognised as the most important awards programme for the UK property industry.

The winners from every corner of the UK were announced at a gala dinner hosted by comedian, TV presenter and actor Tom Allen, in a sparkling ceremony at London’s five-star Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane.

Receiving the award, auctioneer Bryan Baxter said: “As far as the property industry is concerned, this is the equivalent of winning the ‘Oscars’! It’s an incredibly prestigious award and is yet another milestone achievement for the group.”

The entry list for the 2019 Negotiator Awards was the biggest in the history of the event, which continues to grow in stature and importance with each year. Auction House’s latest trophy repeats gold and silver successes at the ceremony in almost every year since 2013.

Bryan Baxter added: “Nationally, the sector as a whole has had a tough year. But our 40 Auction House salesrooms seem not only to have ridden the storm, but in many areas have been bucking the trend. We put that down to our unique combination of local knowledge, regional expertise and national coverage, which has once again proved so successful.”

Despite uncertainty caused by Brexit and the imminent General Election, Auction House November results are on a par with last year. The group sold 154 lots in November, at a success rate of 73% – up from 71% in 2018.

Commenting on the figures, Charles Lovell, Head of Auction House Robinson & Hall said: “Whilst some people appear to be putting their property decisions on hold until the New Year, others see auction as the speedy solution. With that in mind, we have sold 80% of lots offered in our 2019 auctions which are held every two months at Delta Hotel in Milton Keynes and Venue 360 in Luton.”

We are now taking lots for our next available auctions in the new year. For a free no obligation discussion to find out whether your land or property is suitable, please contact 01234 362899.

If you own a property which is not connected to a mains drainage system, please ask yourself a couple of questions:

The Environment Agency has bought in new rules to address concerns that wastewater is polluting watercourses. Therefore, from 1st January 2020 it will become illegal for owners of septic tanks to discharge their effluent directly into a watercourse.

Septic tanks are very common in rural properties and most homeowners find them a relatively easy solution to the problem of dealing with wastewater and sewage where no mains drainage is available.

What are your options?

Worried you might have drainage problems?

An obvious sign if you have drainage problems is if you notice any foul smells around your property. Other issues include gurgling noises from internal plumbing or blocked drains or sunken areas of land externally. Quick identification and treatment can often save money and ensure you do not fall foul of the regulations.

If in doubt, trace the outfall of your drains to ensure you know where they discharge. Checking your drains may help maintain your system and ensures you don’t get caught out by the new changes in legislation. 

To find out how we can help you or to discuss this matter further, please contact Robert.

There are a number of major infrastructure projects planned in our region. Some of these will have a significant effect on the landscape in coming years and have implications for our clients’ landholdings.

Key projects planned or underway are:

Oxford to Cambridge Expressway

Two viable options for the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway are currently being considered and an announcement is expected autumn 2019 with the preferred route due to be confirmed in autumn 2020.

East/West Rail (western section): Bicester – Bletchley

A Public Inquiry was held in relation to the Transport and Works Application for construction works to re-open the western section of the East/West Rail link and it is anticipated that a Transport and Works Act Order will be confirmed in due course.

A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Improvement Scheme

Works continue on this stretch of the A14 and it is expected to be fully operational by end of 2020.

Northampton Strategic Rail Freight Interchange

A Public Examination closed in April 2019 and the examining authority will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State in October 2019.

A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet Road

Consultation on the preferred route has now been completed and an updated design is in preparation.

A421 Eagle Farm Roundabout, Milton Keynes to Junction 13 M1 Link Road

Works commenced in spring 2019 to dual this section of the A421 link road which are due for completion late 2020.

We will continue to monitor progress on the projects and provide updates when significant changes are made.

If you would like more information or to find out how we can help you if you feel that any of the infrastructure projects will affect you, please contact Andrew.

Auction House Robinson & Hall is part of the UK’s leading property auctioneer, Auction House UK. 846 lots were entered into September auctions this year, more than in any month in the 12 year history of the company, and this is likely to be a national record for the industry.

Focusing on Auction House Robinson & Hall, we have sold over 80% of lots this year so far and have a 27 lot auction next month (on 8th and 10th October), over 20% more than the October auctions last year and more than other auctions this year.

Commenting on the results, Charles Lovell, Head of Auction House Robinson & Hall, said: “These figures prove that despite media reports of problems in the property market, Auction House continues to buck the trend. The most recent statistics suggest that the auction industry has suffered a fall in sales of more than 10% over the last 12 months, which means that we are currently outperforming the sector by around 15%.”

Charles continues: “If you are considering sale by auction and would like to sell your property before Christmas then act quickly. We are now taking lots for our December auctions on 4th and 5th December; deadline to enter a lot is 8th November. Owners of vacant properties and land should take note that it is much better to sell your properties prior to the winter weather setting in.

Upcoming taxation changes are driving many investors to sell off their rental properties. Those with buy-to-let mortgages really should sell with tenants still in situ. That way, mortgage repayments can continue to be made from the rent received. There are still large-scale landlords buying such stock, and plenty of refurbishment specialists who would acquire and carry out improvement programmes.

The stock being offered at our auctions is very diverse, and with the higher number of lots we are now listing, buyer opportunities are greater than ever before.”

Our auction results can be viewed here. A good example of a lot selling particularly well is the former public convenience in our August auctions which sold for 6 times the guide price! Our auctioning your land booklet also provides some fantastic case studies of successful land sales.

For further information about auctions or to book a no obligation auction appraisal, please contact Charles.