Diverse demands for market short on supply

In many ways, the farmland market in Kent has always been somewhat different from all the other parts of the country.

Perhaps this is because we have such a diverse range of land types across the county.

Kent starts with the highly fertile vegetable-growing ground in the Isle of Thanet, through the rolling downland to the south of Canterbury, the bleak expanses of Romney Marsh and the Isle of Sheppey, the heavy clay of the Weald with its orchards (and once hop gardens) right up to the fringes of London, where it seems that most land is devoted to keeping horses.

From this, it is easy to see that there are aspects of all the parts of the national market in a Kentish microcosm.

I think that it is fair to say that not a lot of land changes hands publicly in Kent, but GW Finn & Sons have been involved in a number of private transactions, which for one reason or another suited the vendor better than a full-blown marketing campaign.

A block of good quality, Grade 2 combinable crop land in the east of the county was sold for £4000/acre last year, with another block of 120 or so acres of heavier land achieving a figure in excess of £2750/acre.

There has been considerable interest generated by offerings of parcels of land that would be considered secondary in many other counties.

Blocks of drained marshland and former orchard have excited as much interest among buyers as the finest vegetable land would have done 10 years ago – certainly a symptom of a market short on supply with a diverse range of buyers pursuing the opportunity.

Obviously one of the major sources of buyers has been the equestrian market – there appears to be almost unbridled demand for manageable paddocks and grazing land, often with the figures achieved casting considerable doubt on the wisdom of trying to value such land by the acre.

Contract farming arrangements are keeping land out of the marketplace.

It seems that efficient tax planning and the land market have the capacity to work in synergy or at cross purposes, making large-scale farmers more commonplace in the county, whereas someone operating over 5000 acres or more would have been the stuff of legend a few years ago.

One thing that certainly has not bucked any national trend has been the headache caused by single farm payment issues and it has proved vital that knowledgeable and amenable solicitors are used.

Our view for 2006 is that there will be more land coming to the market across the county.

The buyers are still the usual suspects – those lucky enough to have benefited from development on their land, the various conservation organisations, those driven by inheritance tax planning, lifestyle or equestrian buyers and even occasionally an entrepreneurial farmer.

However, we do not see any likelihood of a slackening in demand, as the logjam of supply following the SFP uncertainties will take some time to clear, but it is wise for anyone considering a sale to grasp the nettle sooner rather than later.

Telephone 01227 710 200 or go to www.gwfinn.co.uk

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