Large landowners urged to cut rents
THE Tenant Farmers Association is to press large landowners to follow the Duke of Northumberlands recent decision to cut rents.
But three of the biggest landlords are unlikely to follow suit.
The TFA is pushing for a true rent reduction, rather than the 15% one-year rent abatement announced by the duke last week (News, Mar 5), says chairman, Reg Haydon.
The rent cut followed a recent TFA meeting at Hexham which was attended by 150 tenants, says Mr Haydon. "It will go some way to alleviating the financial stress that many tenant farmers are facing. But this time next year, rents will revert back to the high rent levels set in 1996. We are looking for a 10-15% reduction for the next three years."
The main targets are the Crown Estate, the Duchy Estate and the National Trust. All say they assess rents individually.
"We are very concerned about the reduction in farm incomes," says Chris Bourchier, head of agriculture at the Crown Estate. "But we shall look at each business in turn."
The Crown Estates 650 tenants are spread across the country, so to follow the dukes example would be too simplistic, he maintains. "Rents are not the whole story. If we can put a programme together with the tenant that will add viability to the business, perhaps by introducing some non-agricultural elements, this could be far more constructive."
The National Trust, which has 700 tenants, is introducing a £400,000 aid package to be spent on a range of schemes to boost a farms income and its environmental potential. It may also consider phasing or delaying of payments, says head of land agency David Riddle.
"Rents are assessed according to the market," says a Duchy spokeswoman. "Genuinely difficult situations are, of course, handled sympathetically." *