21 October 1999
Farmers could scoop £1m an acre

FARMERS in the south-east of England stand to gain up to £1 million an acre from selling prime farmland with planning permission for new homes, according to The Times.

The newspaper quotes several sources in todays issue which suggest this is the figure which farmers could expect to collect.

Yesterday it revealed the government was considering a radical shake-up of the planning laws allowing farming land to be re-zoned.

The changes to the planning laws governing farming land are set out in proposals put forward by the Cabinet Offices performance and innovation unit.

It is suggested in the units report that by freeing traditional farming land farmers could find an easy exit from the industry.

The change would also be attractive to the government as it opens the possibility of levying a windfall tax on such land sales.

About one third of all farm is categorised as prime quality and represents about 15m acres.

Among other proposals by the unit is the idea to create a fund from European Union farm payments to tackle the crisis in farming.

It would divert up to 20% of the £3bn in EU farm subsidies received by British farmers.

The National Farmers Union was cautious about the changes. It was concerned that agricultural land would be brought within the planning system.

Friends of the Earth warned of the consequences if the government backs propositions to allow 1.1m homes in south-east England.

The environmental group said more than 140,000 new homes would be built on Green Belt or land designated for wildlife, landscape or recreational uses.