19 March 1999

Change of use plan puts Kent farmers investments in peril

A KENT tenant farmer is being forced to quit and will lose thousands of £s worth of investments because her landlord gained planning permission to alter the designated use of the land to non-agricultural purposes only.

Jan Lawrie has rented 12.5ha (31 acres) of grazing near Oxted since 1988. When she was served notice to quit in April 1997, Mrs Lawrie had no idea her landlord had been seeking planning permission to change its nominated use.

"The change in land use came out-of-the-blue. Our landlord told us he had planning permission to change the use of the land and it was no longer approved for agriculture," she said.

She sought legal help immediately to try and protect her 350-ewe flock and suckler beef business and a number of investments made during the past 11 years.

Mrs Lawrie added that these investments included fencing and installing gates. In addition she has put up a range of buildings, the largest being a £10,000 pole barn which serves as a lambing shed, cattle yard and straw store.

"We talked to everyone we could about the legal position and the resulting hearings with the council went to arbitration."

But she was told that planning permission proceedings had already been granted. She will be forced to leave the farm on Dec 18.

"We protested that we hadnt seen any notices or information about the planned change in use because they werent posted where we could see them.

"But that – like our full farm tenancy agreement – counted for nothing and it means the end of our business and the loss of the investments," she said. &#42

Scots stubble risk

SCOTTISH farmers have again been warned they risk a complete ban on straw and stubble burning unless the increasing level of public complaints is reduced.

A letter from the Scottish Office, included with IACS forms, states: "We are concerned about the apparent disregard by some farmers of their requirements under the code of practice for straw and stubble burning. We will monitor the situation closely this year. If the situation deteriorates further, the imposition of a ban will certainly be considered for future years."

Straw and stubble burning was banned in England and Wales in 1993. &#42

EC record cash

A SCHEME offering farmers free help with record keeping has secured EU funding for a second year.

Developed by Holme Lacy College near Hereford, the Marches Farm Project is available to producers throughout the Marches 5b area, which covers parts of Herefords and Salop.

Last year 100 farmers benefited from the project, which deals with basic farm records with the aim of ensuring producers are up to speed with current quality assurance schemes. The guarantee of cash for a second year should allow another 100 producers to be involved. For Information, ring Cathy Meredith on 01432 870316. &#42