As 2021 draws to a close, there is much to reflect on. The farmland market nationally has for the second year remained quieter than expected, with land for sale (48,100 acres by Q3 2021), compared to the same period in 2020 (48,200 acres) and 2019 (65,200 acres).
We are currently offering one of the largest parcels of farmland to come onto the open market here in the South East this year, The Fillbrook Farm Land, a ring-fenced parcel of mainly Grade III arable land at Hurst Green consists of a total of 249.66 acres with a guide price of £2.3m. This useful arable land in the heart of the High Weald is mostly south facing and therefore also considered suitable for viticulture or top fruit production. For further information please click here.
Landowners are reluctant to sell whilst waiting to see what opportunities lie ahead and there are many buyers waiting in the wings, whether that be farmers with rollover funds, lifestyle buyers, institutional buyers and increasingly green investors who are looking for carbon offsetting and rewilding opportunities.
Ahead is certainly a greener future. Following on from the UK’s hosting of COP26 in Glasgow and the enactment of The Environment Act 2021, both in November, we know with much greater certainty what the government expects both businesses and individuals to do. The Act aims to clean air, restore natural habitats, increase biodiversity, reduce waste, and make better use of resources. It will halt the decline in some species by 2030 and requires new developments to improve or create habitats for nature.
Land owners will already be familiar with the provisions for biodiversity, natural capital, and conservation in the Agriculture Act. Further biodiversity gain measures within the Environment Act and with the structure of conservation covenants means landowners will be able to turn natural capital into greater income producing assets.
Unsurprisingly then we have this year seen an increase nationally and here in the South East in demand for woodland. As well as the environmental and commercial benefits of a well-managed woodland, there has reportedly been a significant increase in the number of people visiting them. The social benefits of woodland ownership and changes in trends also seen nationally, such as a 14% increase in pet ownership, means there is greater competition from buyers for a range of interests and uses. Supply here in the South East will remain limited, potentially increasing prices. We have sold several parcels of woodland this year and are currently marketing Great Priory Wood in Sellindge, East Kent, a private parcel of 16.46 acres of conservation woodland and additional, adjoining grassland extending to 3.45 acres with Biodiversity Net Gain potential. For further information please click here.
Given the increasing value of rural assets there has never been a better time to consider the future of your farming business and the opportunities ahead. Diversification continues for many farms and the continued increase in staycations and an interest in locally sourced food is presenting a number of opportunities to engage with the public directly.
More diverse opportunities around renewables also remain. What we will see is the government encouraging a more circular, locally driven economy and we know that shorter supply chains will benefit not just businesses, the public but also the environment.
So where to next? A time of opportunity where innovation and investment are needed isn’t for the faint-hearted. We know there are financial incentives in the pipeline for older farmers to retire and the government is keen to see entrepreneurial youngsters gaining opportunities to enter the sector.
What we know for certain is that there is change on the horizon and understanding how you and your farm business can use this to your longer-term advantage will be key and we are on hand to advise and support to make sure your decision making is informed and timely.
Finally, a word on the rural property market and for many would be buyers they are likely to be familiarising themselves with the concept of compromise. In the current market, the perfect property doesn’t exist or if it does, it is snapped up quickly. There are however a couple of opportunities for the right buyer to create something special. Launched in November, we have Oxens Shaw, Meopham, a rare chance to buy an unspoilt small farm in the North Kent Downs surrounded by 24.93 acres. For further information please click here.
We also have for sale a more specialised equestrian focussed property at Smiths Hill Farm, West Farleigh. An equestrian small holding with a farmhouse, outbuildings, sand school, land and holiday let accommodation which is or sale as a whole or in three separate lots. There has been large footfall viewings of both farms.
For further information on Smiths Hill Farm as a whole please click here.
For those looking to get a foot on the development ladder, a rare opportunity to convert an existing agricultural barn near Wingham, Canterbury, to provide a single storey detached 1-bed rural dwelling within a sizeable garden. For further information please click here.
As always at this time of year we wish all our clients and friends a very happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Richard Thomas is a Director at BTF Partnership and can be contacted at Richard.email@example.com / 01233 740077