Category: Rural Property & Business

Land and Property Professionals

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

Why diversify?

The phasing out of payments under the Basic Payment Scheme has resulted in many farmers looking for ways to protect their business income for future generations.

Through the re-use of redundant/surplus buildings or land of low productivity, diversification can open new sources of revenue that does not rely on the day-to-day agricultural enterprise, add value to assets, provide a new challenge, create new jobs and allow new business entrants in the form of younger generations/family members.

Farm diversification can come in many forms such as:

One of the first steps when considering a farm diversification project should be to assess the planning options available and, if necessary, prepare a planning strategy.

Many proposals utilising existing agricultural buildings may fall under Permitted Development Rights (PDR). Therefore, it is important to understand at an early stage in the project whether full planning permission for change of use is required or whether PDR can be used.

When you can use Permitted Development Rights:

Part 3 of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order focusses on changes of use and in particular Classes Q, R and S focus on the change of use of agricultural buildings.

Class Q enables the conversion of agricultural buildings to up to five new dwellings, the floor space is limited at 465 sqm and the structure of the building must be confirmed as capable for conversion. You also must be able to evidence that the building was previously used for agriculture on or before 20th March 2013.

Class R enables the conversion of agricultural buildings to a flexible commercial use up to 500 sqm and the building must have been last used for agriculture on or before 3rd July 2012.

Class S enables the conversion of agricultural buildings to state-funded schools or registered nurseries providing the building was used for agriculture on or before 20th March 2013 and the change of use does not exceed 500 sqm.

The benefit of being able to use PDR to diversify is it is a simpler, quicker and cheaper way to get farm development through the planning system.  

Other factors to consider:

Many sites that offer farm diversification opportunities are located within the open countryside, where planning permission for new buildings is contrary to policy and difficult to obtain. In addition, if a site is located within the Green Belt, a conservation area, a national park or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it is further restricted by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and various measures shall need to be taken to ensure the development is acceptable.

Liaising with the local planning authority:

Where PDR is not an option, it is beneficial to engage with the Council at the earliest opportunity and discuss your proposals at a pre-application stage. It is also helpful to engage with your local Parish Council and adjoining landowners and neighbours to gain support and address any concerns prior to the submission of an application.

Often, planning officers are not familiar with the day-to-day running of a farm and how agricultural businesses work. It can be helpful to your application to invite officers to gain an understanding of the enterprise when undertaking their site visit or to submit additional explanatory information as part of an application submission.

Key points to remember:

We have years of experience successfully helping farmers to diversify their farm business. We can help from start to finish and guide you through the process.

For further information or to find out how we can help you, please contact Shannon Fuller.

The industrial and storage market has seen the largest growth in property rents and has remained the most robust of the commercial property sectors. Over recent years, there has been a growth in online sales following the onset of coronavirus and both retailers and distributors are requiring an increased amount of storage space to facilitate these requirements.

Are my farm buildings suitable?

When considering whether commercial industrial property diversification is an option for you, there are a number of matters you should take into consideration, which include:-

  1. Access hours
  2. Additional security
  3. Lease agreements
  4. Deposits
  5. Planning permission and building regulations
  6. Legal requirements
  7. Property management
  8. The tenant’s usage
  9. Additional insurance requirements
  10. Required adaptations to the existing farming method and business
  11. Health and safety requirements

The benefits compared to other diversification options:

When considering whether your farm buildings are suitable, you could also consider storage containers. These have also increased in demand and may be a smaller initial step into the commercial market.  

For more information or to discuss your farm buildings and their suitability, please contact Tessa.

Whilst we’ve just completed the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Countryside Stewardship Scheme annual claims for 2022, at the forefront of our rural team’s mind is the future of these schemes and those that will replace them. The guaranteed income from BPS is something farmers have come to rely on, especially at times of volatility in agricultural markets such as we are seeing now.

BPS will be phased out by 2028, with 2027 being the last year a payment is received under the scheme. By 2024, the payment will be around half of what claimants received in 2020 and therefore planning for this reduction in income is now vital.

The Lump Sum Exit Scheme, the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) retirement scheme, is not an option for most but will be useful for a few farmers.

The Countryside Stewardship Scheme offers good levels of payment, recently increased, and is a good way of securing a guaranteed income from poorer parts of the farm without the risks of weather, price volatility, etc. Applications for agreements to start on 1st January 2023 must be submitted by 29th July 2022. With the huge range of options, including capital items, it is worth considering the scheme well in advance of this date to ensure applications are ready for submission by the deadline.

We now have more information of the Government’s much publicised Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), the first part of the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). In 2022, the scheme will open in June with the Soils Standards for arable, horticultural and improved grassland. We are gradually getting the information on the scheme from DEFRA and the boxes below show the confirmed requirements so far.

Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard

Improved Grassland Soils Standard

Further standards under SFI will be launched in 2023-2025 including payments for hedges, woodland and biodiversity.

A further payment available under ELMS will be the Animal Health and Welfare Review. This is a contribution towards an annual vet visit. It is available to those with at least 50 pigs, 20 sheep or 10 cattle and the payments are as follows:

There is also funding available for capital items, with the Countryside Stewardship: Capital Grants Scheme. Applications are open now and will remain open until all the funding is allocated. This scheme pays a set rate towards capital items under three categories:

Claims can be made for capital items up to £20,000 for each category, £60,000 overall. There will also be further rounds of the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund and the Farming Transformation Fund.

A number of the above schemes are time limited and therefore it will be important for farmers to consider which schemes work best for their farms and act swiftly where funding is available. Making a start with the SFI Soils Standard will put people in a good position to enter the further standards when they become available as part of the paperwork will already have been completed.

For information or assistance on any of the above schemes, please contact Polly Sewell.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced further details regarding the plans to replace the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in England with delinked payments. Currently, there is a defined plan for the phasing out of BPS payments to 2024, at which point the payments made to farmers will be approximately half of the payment received prior to phasing out.

The delinked payments, from 2024 to 2027, will be calculated on the average of the BPS payments made to a business in a reference period, 2020-2022, and then reduced based on the size of the claim as they are gradually phased out with the last payment made in 2027.

The delinked payments will not be affected by changes in farm size, nor if the land use of the holding is changed after BPS 2022. Following BPS 2023, entitlements will be cancelled to a nil value.

If there have been changes to a business since the start of the reference period (being BPS 2020), this could affect the amount of the delinked payment received.

Lump Sum Exit Scheme

The Lump Sum Exit Scheme (LSES) will provide BPS applicants who wish to leave farming with an opportunity to do so in a planned way. The scheme makes an up-front payment of a farmer’s future BPS payments so long as they surrender their entitlements and transfer out their land.

In order to be eligible for the scheme, applicants must have either:

In order to receive the lump sum payment, applicants must apply this year and then by 31st May 2024 must:

Applicants will still be able to work as a contractor or work for other farmers once they have received the lump sum payment.

A sole trader cannot transfer land to a spouse/civil partner, or to someone with whom they are cohabiting as a couple.

If a farmer decides to take the lump sum payment, they will no longer be eligible for BPS payments or delinked payments. Similarly, it is unlikely that a farmer will be able to meet the rules of other schemes, such as Countryside Stewardship or Sustainable Farming Incentive, if they have taken the lump sum payment.

The LSES reference amount is calculated by the average of a business’s BPS payments received in 2019, 2020 and 2021. This amount is then multiplied by 2.35 and this will be the lump sum available for each business. The reference amount will be capped at £42,500 meaning a total cap on the LSES payment of just under £100,000.

LSES applications will be open from April to September 2022. This is a one-off, non-competitive scheme, and all applicants must transfer out their agricultural land and provide evidence of this by 31st May 2024. If applicants wish to enter their agricultural land into woodland creation schemes instead of transferring it, they must be accepted into the scheme and have planted the trees by 31st May 2024.

There are a number of considerations for a business thinking about taking the LSES and therefore we would encourage people who feel it could be of interest to consider the scheme early as the application window is relatively short.

For more information or to find out how our Rural Property & Business department can help you please contact 01234 352201 or 01280 428010 or email bedford@robinsonandhall.co.uk

The Farming Investment Fund is an umbrella fund which provides farmers with grants to improve productivity on their farms in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced that the application window for the Improving Farm Productivity section of the Farming Investment Fund opened on 19th January 2022 and farmers will be able to apply for grants under this scheme until 16th March 2022.

This round of funding has a budget of £25 million with the main objectives being to boost farm production, as well as increasing farm and horticultural productivity.

DEFRA is offering grants of up to 40% of the costs for slurry treatment equipment, as well as robotics and innovation equipment which will reduce environmental impacts and improve efficiency on farm. The minimum grant available is £35,000 (40% of £87,500) with the maximum amount being £500,000. 

Slurry treatment equipment

The grant can pay towards the costs of:

Robotics and innovation equipment

The grant can pay towards the costs of:

Further details of eligible items under the fund can be found here.

For more information or to find out how our Rural Property & Business department can help you, please contact 01234 352201 or email bedford@robinsonandhall.co.uk

Further details on the next stages of the implementation of the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) have been outlined by George Eustice at the Oxford Farming Conference.

The Local Nature Recovery Scheme and Landscape Recovery Scheme are set to work alongside the already publicised Sustainable Farming Incentive within the ELMS framework. The two new schemes will focus on the restoration of habitats and landscapes, a reduction in water and air pollution, and a drive for sustainable food production; the overarching aim being to ‘make more space for nature’.

The Local Nature Recovery Scheme (LNR) is set to introduce change at a farm scale. The scheme is to evolve from Countryside Stewardship, taking the ‘best’ points from Mid-Tier agreements and encouraging specific actions previously seen under Higher-Tier or Higher Level Stewardship agreements. Proposed options centre on the management, restoration and creation of different habitats in the farmed landscape. These include breeding areas for wildlife, species-rich grasslands and lowland heathland.

The Landscape Recovery Scheme (LR) takes the above and expands it to the landscape scale. For this, individuals or groups of interested parties (e.g. farmers, public bodies, estates) are to work together to deliver long-term projects, with individual projects to be 500 – 5,000 hectares in size. These will result in land use change and habitat restoration. The scheme is to be implemented in two rounds, with the first round for 15 pilot projects to be opened shortly. This round shall focus on the themes of recovering and restoring threatened native species, and restoring rivers and streams. This scheme is a long-term, collaborative commitment with projects scored against feasibility, cost and impact.

Unfortunately, more detailed information of the above schemes has not been circulated. We do know that the application window for the Landscape Recovery Scheme is due to open shortly, whilst the Local Nature Recovery Scheme is to be piloted in 2023, with full rollout not expected until 2024. Significantly, no indication of payment rates has been provided. Detailed rules are to be supplied by the Government in due course, once further reviews of proposals have been undertaken.

The three schemes within ELMS have been designed to be complementary to one another. Farmers will be able to choose which schemes they enter and we have been assured that there is flexibility throughout, allowing changes to the land included and timings.

Information on the schemes can be found at:

Local Nature Recovery: more information on how the scheme will work – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Landscape Recovery: more information on how the scheme will work – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

For more information or to find out how our Rural Property & Business department can help you, please contact 01234 352201 or email bedford@robinsonandhall.co.uk  

The Rural Payments Agency has recently announced changes to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme payment rates, effective from 1st January 2022.

If you have an agreement, or an application for an agreement which starts on or before 1st January 2022 then where the payment rate has:

For new agreements starting from 1st January 2023, all the new payment rates will apply.

The main payment rate changes are as detailed below:

Revenue OptionRevenue Option TitleOld Rate (£)Rate for agreements starting on or before 1st Jan 2022 (£)Rate for agreements starting on or after 1st Jan 2023 (£)
AB1Nectar flower mix511579579
AB2Basic overwinter stubble848458
AB6Enhanced overwinter stubble436493493
AB8Flower rich margins and plots539628628
AB9Winter bird food640640640
AB12Supplementary winter feeding for farmland birds632657657
AB15Two year sown legume fallow522569569
BE3Management of hedgerows899
GS2Permanent grassland with very low inputs (outside SDAs)95132132
GS4Legume and herb-rich swards309358358
HS2Take historic and archaeological features currently on cultivated land out of cultivation425459459
SW14 – 6m buffer strip on cultivated land353419419
SW412 – 24m watercourse buffer strip on cultivated land512578578

The full list of changes can be found here.

There are no plans for the payment rates for capital items to be changed.

For more information or to find out how our Rural Property & Business department can help you, please contact 01234 352201 or email bedford@robinsonandhall.co.uk  

With the end of 2021 fast approaching, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have finally provided details of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) early rollout, due to occur in spring 2022. The proposed rollout, the first element of the Environmental Land Management Schemes, is a slimmed-down version of the Sustainable Farming Incentive Pilot, the agreements of which are currently being implemented.

The SFI early rollout (SFI 2022) has seen amendments to the initial concept of the scheme, with policymakers listening to applicants’ and experts’ thoughts on the practicalities of operation. The agreements will last 3 years, with payments made quarterly. There will be no minimum or maximum land areas and applicants will be able to choose the specific land parcels included in the agreement. There will also be an element of flexibility to amend the agreement every 12 months – such as including additional land areas.

As with the SFI Pilot, the SFI 2022 requires applicants to enter land parcels into ‘Standards’, being:

The first two Soil Standards will be the focus for most applicants. These Standards will only have introductory and intermediate levels to start with. As with the SFI Pilot, the payment received is reflective of the level of Standard that is entered into.

A summary of the requirements and the related payments, per hectare, are summarized below:

Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard

Grassland Soils Standard

The advanced levels for both Standards are expected to be introduced from 2023. We have been told the Advanced Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard will focus on no-till and min-till farming. 

Effort has been made to keep the Standards, and levels, as simple as possible to encourage implementation on the ground. However, there are specific nuances to several of the requirements, e.g. time requirements for the testing of soil organic matter. It is recommended that the full scheme is reviewed and considered in advance of the application window, which will be 10 weeks, opening in spring 2022.

The full scheme manual can be found at:

Sustainable Farming Incentive: how the scheme will work in 2022 – GOV.UK

If you would like more information or to discuss the options available, please contact a member of our Rural Team.

Land registry title plans represent the Land Registry’s interpretation of a conveyed boundary and as such they are the go to document to determine ownership. It is a requirement that all exchanges of land ownership are registered with the Land Registry.

Solicitors will carry out searches of the Land Registry and check carefully that boundaries match those registered so it is important that the maps are correct to avoid costs unravelling anomalies.

It is imperative that the plans prepared and being submitted for first registration, or for land being divided and transferred, are accurate and meet the minimum requirements of the Land Registry to avoid registration applications being rejected or delayed.

The Land Registry requires that plans submitted are of good quality and conform to their published guidance as follows:

Drawings prepared for leasehold have different requirements including the preparation of a detailed floor plan layout to a larger scale.

We prepare Land Registry complaint plans following the guidance published by the Land Registry. All plans are digitally produced from the latest Ordnance Survey data to enable accurate plans to be prepared and sent electronically to facilitate a speedy transfer of data between solicitors, sellers, buyers and the Land Registry.

We recommend that a site survey is conducted to take site dimensions for annotating on the drawings and to check that the Ordnance Survey data is up to date and correct. This often flags up errors within the tolerance of the Ordnance Survey Maps but which could otherwise cause conflict and/or ambiguity in future years (the Ordnance Survey data’s published accuracy is +/-1m).

If you need an accurate Land Registry map or if you have an anomaly on your historic Land Registry map then please contact David.

With the Government’s pledge to treble tree planting rates by the end of this Parliament, there is an increasing focus on schemes to support landowners to bring forward new areas for woodland planting.

England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO)

The main scheme available in England is the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) new scheme, EWCO, which opened for applications on 9th June 2021. The scheme is open to owner occupiers, tenants, landlords and licensors. To be accepted, land must meet the following criteria:

There are four types of payments being made available:

The scheme can be applied for at any time with funding decisions taking between 12 and 20 weeks.

Trees for Climate

An alternative, for those with land in the Marston Vale area of Bedfordshire, is Trees for Climate. The Forest of Marston Vale Trust has recently secured funding from DEFRA for a tree planting scheme which will provide landowners with an opportunity to create new woodland, assisted by a flexible funding package. The package is likely to be more generous than the EWCO scheme as it is specific to this Community Forest area.

Woodland Carbon Code

Applicants under either of the above schemes will have the ability to register the woodland with the Woodland Carbon Code. This is a quality assurance scheme for new woodland which generates independently verified carbon credit which can be sold.

If you would like more information on either the EWCO or Trees for Climate schemes, please contact Katie.