Rural take-over by non-farmers

5 January 2001

Rural take-over by non-farmers

By Liz Mason

FAMILIES which have farmed the same land for generations are being outnumbered in some rural areas by cash-rich city dwellers.

More than a quarter of all farmland sold last year went to new entrants because of the farming crisis, government advisers have warned ministers.

The figure is set to rise as wealthy city people cash in on the rising housing market and move to the country, according to a new report.

The report, called New Entrants to Land Markets, was based on the findings of a survey by London land agent FPD Savills.

Last year 39% of farms sold were bought by non-farmers; 22% were bought by first time land buyers and 17% by existing non-farming landowners, it found.

The document defines new entrants as individuals buying rural land for the first time-mainly for the lifestyle or simply for its privacy and amenity value.

It says: “With growth in new entrant activity likely, we expect new entrants to become the dominant type of landowner in an increasing number of localities.

The report aims to measure the changes in land use due to the farming crisis and improve countryside management advice for new entrants.

It forecasts that new entrants will buy one per cent more farmland each year if residential property prices carry on growing and farm incomes continue to fall.

The report was commissioned by various government agencies, including the Environment Agency, English Nature and the Countryside Agency.

Richard Lloyd, head of farming and forestry at the Countryside Agency, said there was no evidence that new entrants looked after land better than farmers.

He added: “Their motives are right, but new entrants have yet to tap into the available advisory services.

That must be addressed if we are to capitalise on any good that might come from this trend.”

New entrants are most active in the south east where sales total 10,000 acres a year, or 35% of annual market turnover.

Shaun Leavey, regional director for the NFU in the south-east, said the poor state of farming meant most farmers could not afford to acquire additional land.

It is a source of enormous regret and sadness that many older farmers are having to leave the industry before they would wish to do so.”

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