The future of the Royal Show has been secured following an agreement between the Royal Agriculture Society for England (RASE) and a trust set up by Stoneleigh’s previous owners over the future development of the site.

RASE had put the showground up for sale when the trust blocked plans to develop the site into a National Centre for Rural Excellence, (News, 13 July).

But the stand-off between the two sides ended last week as legal differences were resolved.

“We now have a secure site and can look to the future of the Royal Show to deliver something more dynamic in agriculture,” explained show director Mark Spencer. “We need to engage with farmers on a rather more intellectual level to assist their businesses.”

The RASE’s Countryside and Food Fair would be absorbed into the Royal, with a further food event planned later in the year. There would be no move away from core farming.

RASE chief executive John Moverley, said: “We are now very committed to developing a centre of excellence, with an equine zone, and a rural innovation centre and are very keen to have other bodies involved too.”

He stressed that the Royal Show remained the major voice in farming and food. In future it would have more of a focus on arable, with maybe more working demonstrations. Exhibitor support is being sought. “If people walk away, the show will go,” he warned.

Mr Spencer also announced that next year’s show will be a Thursday-to-Sunday event, from 3-6 July. “There’s a whole generation of people out there with a strong interest in the industry, who can’t get to the event mid-week. We want to drag those people back.”

But organisers of the Great Yorkshire Show, which is scheduled for the Tuesday to Thursday of the following week, have expressed “extreme disappointment” at the date change.

“Many exhibitors will not be able to attend both events,” said a statement. It feared the changes would sacrifice agricultural content for the potential financial gain of greater public attendance with the extra weekend day.

This was denied by the RASE. “We want both shows to be successful,” said Mr Moverley. “We want to work together, and might be able to release some livestock on Saturday, so they can get to the Yorkshire Show in time. But for other areas, like equine, it actually works better.”

charles.abel@rbi.co.uk