12 May 1995

Diverse interest in Green Belt acres

IN A market dominated by commercial farming concerns, an unusual estate by the M25 motorway will attract a diversity of interest.

Despite a variety of dwellings (many are Grade 11 listed), Theobalds Park does not offer the type of house that makes it a residential estate. But with 1758 acres straddling the M25 near Cheshunt, it has enough land to offer a sizeable farming investment and a host of other opportunities.

Although virtually surrounded by developed land – industrial and residential – with some sites offering building potential the entire estate lies within the Metropolitan Green Belt surrounding north London.

The estate has been administered since 1938 by a Trust set up by the Gilmore family. Now spanning three generations, the Trust is the vendor.

Long-established

Most of the farming families involved on its seven let farms are long-established in the area and Strutt & Parker has noted interest from some of them. The firms Roger Pryor claims he would generally offer tenants advance notice and an early opportunity to buy. On price, he says tenants should not be expected to pay "one bid" above any offer for the farm as an investment.

"I dont see why tenants should have to pay the 50% difference between tenanted and vacant value," he said.

The fact that no deals have been agreed suggests that it may be hard to agree a value for property in such a location, with or without a tenant.

Two of the farms are let on MAFF five-year tenancies due to expire next year, one of which includes 420,000 litres of milk quota.

The land is all grade 3, valued by S&P at about £1750/acre with vacant possession (£1200/acre at the 1993 market low).

Several of the dwellings are let on assured shorthold tenancies.

Strutt & Parkers overall guide price is slightly over £4m. Guides include £850,000 for a 440-acre, mainly arable farm (most of which is let under one of the MAFF agreements) with a modern house; £200,000 for a let dairy farm with 105 acres and 600,000 litres of quota producing £5290 a year (vacant, the farmhouse alone is said by S&P to be worth £200,000); and £400,000 for a 327-acre let farm that generates extra income through a PYO unit and storage of new cars for a dealership – split 70:30 with the landlord.

A couple of radio masts add to the estates income, which totals well over £114,500 a year and immediately offers a yield of 2.8% on purchasing capital. Commuters, investors and local farmers – some still willing to travel 10 miles or more for extra land – as well as existing tenants are among potential purchasers, according to S&P.