5 April 2002

East Anglia is gearing up

By Andrew Shirley

THE East Anglian land market looks to be hotting up with over 2000 acres of arable soil newly available and plenty more waiting in the wings.

FPDSavills has just launched two properties – both in excess of 1000 acres – that will appeal to serious arable farmers. The more commercial of the pair is 1150 acres of Grade 1 silt and buildings near Peterborough.

Part of the Burgess familys multi-million pound vegetable business, which includes Rustler Produce and Islesham Fresh Produce, the disposal is made up of Elm Farm, Holme Road and Black Bush Farm, near Yaxley, and will be offered in three lots with a total guide of £3m.

This values the land, all irrigated and capable of growing vegetables, at just over £2600/acre including the buildings, a figure selling agent Christopher Miles says is significantly below the £3500-4000/acre it would have been worth in 1995.

However, he does add that he is expecting to better the guide price. "If the owners dont get the figure they want they wont sell. It is not a forced sale. However, they just dont want to carry on actively farming."

In Suffolk, Boyton Hall, at Monks Eleigh, up for sale due to the owners retirement, runs to 1004 acres and is also valued at £3m. But in this case the buyer will get a five-bedroomed house for their money as well.

Ipswich-based agent Peter Start, is pegging the Grade 2/3 arable dirt at £2400/acre, again some way off the £3000/acre it would have achieved when prices were at their peak.

He reckons there is sure to be plenty of demand, not least because the holding has an extremely good range of buildings. "There is 3700t of grain storage which gives extra flexibility when cereal prices are as low as they are now."

Although most agents are saying that any surge in supply could have a further impact on values, both selling agents believe that point has not yet been reached. "It is still a very small market, it just seems a lot compared with last year," says Mr Miles. "In 1991 you could expect to have ten farms on the market at any one time."

However, Jim Major, of Brown & Cos Wisbech office, who is planning to launch more than 2000 acres of land in the next 4-6 weeks, reckons the market "will be asked some questions" soon. "I dont see there being a rush to the market, but there is an awareness that there will be more than the last few years."

But he also feels the indications are that there are still buyers in the market, noting that Claret Hall, a 536-acre Suffolk unit put on the market by the firm at the beginning of March, is already under offer. &#42