UNCERTAINTY OVER the latest round of CAP reform hit the lettings market in England and Wales hard last year, with less fresh land let than in any year since farm business tenancies were introduced in 1995.

Although the tenanted area grew, new tenancies were shortened and there was a decline in all levels of activity, according to the 2003 Tenanted Farms Survey carried out by the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers.*

Lettings by committed landlords with larger, fully-equipped holdings were an exception.

They were let for the same or even longer terms that in previous years, giving tenants a chance to maximise opportunities.

The survey indicated, however, that most landlords and tenants were anxious to maintain control over land as CAP reform uncertainty grew, said Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the CAAV.

He said that both parties were keen to be as free as possible to react to the changes; hence more let land was taken in hand and less land sold than in 2002.

Tenants perceived to be new entrants took 9% of the new lettings, up from 6% in 2002.

* The CAAV Tenanted Farm Survey summarises decisions taken about land occupation between Nov 1, 2002 and Oct 31, 2003. It covers 246,000 acres.