First Six Months of the Year Offers both Challenges and Opportunities

18th June 2018

As we approach the longest day, Craig Brough, Associate Director & Chartered Surveyor for H&H Land and Property, reflects on the first six months of the year; the trades, the trends and the events which have kept us busy.

Livestock prices have been buoyant through the first half of the year and has helped to bolster spirits amongst Cumbria’s farming community. This year they have seen one of the wettest winters and coldest springs in history.

We have seen a good start in terms of land trading and have sold two well-equipped livestock holdings in north Cumbria. Small blocks of land continue to come to the market and with well-presented properties always selling the best, it is evident that location remains key in terms of interest. This year’s spring grass letting met a buoyant trade after the tough winter when there were shortages of crop and grass.

Early spring usually sees various grants becoming available for both livestock and cropping enterprises and this year was no exception. The Countryside Productivity Small Grant Scheme was well supported with many applications submitted by the office.  This was a simple and effective scheme, allowing farmers to improve equipment on their holdings.  The national budget was increased from, £15m to £23.5m to cope with applications.

We expect a further round of this scheme in the autumn.  Some approvals have now been received to our applications, submitted under the Improving Farm Productivity Grants, which was launched in October.  To date several large grants, one being in excess of £200,000, have been approved for our clients.  This grant is still open for applications, so please contact the team to discuss opportunities which may be available to you.

Other support we have provided to clients has included grant submissions for LEADER & The Rural Growth Programme Funding, as well as the Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant which was increased this year to £10,000 per claim.

As lambing, one of the busiest times of the year, got well underway in what was challenging conditions for many around the county, it was also the start of one of the busiest times in our office with BPS. This year we found the main issue with the Basic Farm Payment Scheme applications was related to mapping queries caused by the RPA PLCD mapping updates. This resulted in a substantially increased amount of work in some cases. In excess of 400 claims were submitted by the team on behalf of clients, with nearly two thirds of these requiring an RLE1 form to correct errors.

We have been very active on the United Utilities Pipeline Installation which is taking place in West Cumbria. Currently the first top soil begins to be re-laid and reinstated on the early sections of the scheme and new land is now being opened up west of Cockermouth.

We have attended meetings on behalf of clients with NuGen and there appears to be renewed hope of a financial backer for the Moorside Project with a potential announcement due later in the year. This will once again launch infrastructure projects across west Cumbria.

With the ongoing consultation and discussions regarding the proposed Garden Village and Carlisle Southern link road (CSLR), activity around the south of the city of Carlisle has been considerable throughout the spring.  This development will have a massive impact on many farms within the area, so we are working closely with land owners to ensure that they take the correct course of action.  At the time of writing, an announcement on the preferred route for the CSLR is due any day.

Within the office, we provide mortgage valuations for several of the major banks and provide lending quotes through the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation. Following the dairy crisis and the early spring land sales that have taken place, it is evident that there is a degree of confidence returning to parts of the sector and some investment beginning to take place.

As we anticipate the remainder of the year, we are currently looking forward to bringing several properties to the market, including a good stock-rearing farm at Longtown, extending to 175 acres available to let on a 10 year Farm Business Tenancy, and a 410-acre stock farm to sell at Kirkby Stephen.

Our environmental team are busy submitting Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme applications on behalf of many clients. Whilst the deadline for this year’s application pack request window has passed, the schemes are well worth considering for next year. With Brexit moving ever-closer, a stable income source for five years may be welcomed and these schemes, particularly with regard to Water Capital Grants, can significantly aid with capital expenditure projects.

Summer heralds the show season, and H&H Land and Property will be attending most of the local shows, so please do call in to see us for a coffee and a catch up.

Craig can be contacted at the Carlisle Office of H&H Land and Property Limited, Borderway, Rosehill, Carlisle, Cumbria CA1 2RS T: 01228 406260 E: info@hhland.co.uk