26 May 1998
Farmers fight over ancient flower meadows

A FARMER who has saved ancient wildflower meadows accused English Nature of trying to force him to sell his land to a conservation charity.

Robert Langford said negotiations with English Nature broke down because the statutory conservation body tried to cut the amount of money it pays him to manage the meadows.

Mr Langfords farm is near Lyme Regis in Dorset. Mr Langford has set-aside 36.4ha (90 acres) of his 113.3ha (280 acre) farm as a designated site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

English Nature has abandoned its once controversial policy of paying landowners for “profits foregone”. It has tried to negotiate an agreement with Mr Langford, after the present one expires in July, on the basis of a “positive management agreement”, which pays for work carried out, at a lower rate than before.

The conservation body broke off negotiations in January after Mr Langford refused to accept a lump sum of around £70,000, which a valuer said was the amount due to compensate him for the reduced capital value of his farmland. English Nature refused to pay him an annual management fee.

Mr Langford had been paid £14,000 a year for profits foregone. English Nature suggests he should sell the land to the Devon Wildlife Trust, the National Trust or Plantlife. Plantlife has offered £115,000 for 16.1ha (40 acres) at the periphery of his farm.

English Nature is currently reviewing thousands of conservation agreements. The government is also reviewing nature conservation legislation.

  • The Daily Telegraph 25/05/98 page 6