Land worth less if proposals adopted?

16 January 1998

Land worth less if proposals adopted?

By John Burns

LAND prices could fall dramatically if the recommendations of a new Countryside Commission report* on landscape changes in England are adopted by government and the EU.

The authors suggest a new approach is needed, giving priority and financial incentives to the provision of landscape of agreed quality, instead of to food production.

The food production business would have to operate at world market prices without any subsidies or tax breaks. That would trigger the fall in land prices, which the CAP subsidy system kept artificially high.

Falling prices, coupled with tax concessions on retirement or death, could make farms attractive investments, the report says. The tax incentives could be restricted only to those delivering agreed landscapes and environments, the Countryside Commission suggests.

Although there would be no legal obligation, the incentives could be set at levels farmers could not afford to ignore. The reports authors suggest this would be more appropriate than grants, and that far more jobs would be created by encouraging environment and landscape management than by supporting farm food production businesses.

The main body of the report details a study of seven areas previously surveyed in 1972 and again in 1983. Many landscape features, such as hedges, buildings and watercourses, were assessed and compared with the earlier survey results.

The overall conclusion is that although the rate of deterioration of landscape quality has slowed, it is still continuing and will not stop unless a different approach is adopted.

*Agricultural Landscapes: a third look. Report of a study for the Countryside Commission by Richard Westmacott and Tom Worthington.

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