2 November 2001

Beware development cowboys is CLAadvice

FARMERS are being warned of opportunistic developers trying to buy land cheaply from those hit by falling incomes and who are short of funds.

The Country Land and Business Association says it has anecdotal evidence that producers across the country, some in foot-and-mouth affected areas, have been approached with cash offers for part of their land.

"Many farmers are in dire financial straits and could be tempted by what may seem to be a lucrative offer," says the organisations regional director for the north-west, Douglas Chalmers.

"House builders are keen to buy land for their land banks. But planning consent is not always easily achieved and on this basis the land may not be developed for some time so the price offered may not be right for the person concerned."

But, farmers who want to keep control of their land while increasing its potential value are now being offered a "no win no fee" planning permission service by one planning services firm.

"If we win, a client can then sell to the highest bidder," says Trevor Dennington, founder of Suffolk-based Land Planning Associates. "Many planning authorities reject initial applications unjustifiably but they can be won on appeal."

The service has a success rate of 70% compared to a national average of around 30%, he claims, but adds the organisation will tackle cases with a much lower chance of winning. Fees for a successful case typically amount to around £6000. &#42