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Lack of rural homes for retiring farmers stifling new entrants’ opportunities

It called for a fresh perspective on retirement, to present it as ‘desirable and feasible’ and reverse the challenge of new entrants being unable to find a home.

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Lack of rural homes for retiring farmers stifling new entrants

A lack of rural housing for ageing farmers is not only reducing the appeal of retirement but also hampering opportunities for new entrants.

 

A new report, compiled by a number of organisations including the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) and the Prince’s Countryside Fund, laid bare the challenges faced by the industry and highlighted the need for action.

 

It called for a fresh perspective on retirement, to present it as ‘desirable and feasible’ and reverse the challenge of new entrants being unable to find a home.

 

Bill Young, chief executive of the Addington Fund, which also fed into the report, said: “The biggest knock-on effect is it denies the next generation coming through to take on the farm.


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“I would say about seven of the top 10 farms in the UK are first-generation farmers because they bring to the table what family farmers cannot.”

 

The report suggested the uptake of new measures and structural change, including framing the de-linking of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in England so it includes a specific retirement pathway, an innovative approach to rural social housing which involves farmers and landowners, supportive changes in agricultural tenancy law and knowledge exchange programmes.

 

It drew on research which estimated within 20 years, half of all rural households would be headed by someone over the age of 65.

 

Restrictions

In the last few years, Scottish Government’s Farming Opportunities for New Entrants group has managed to facilitate the entry of 60 new entrants to more than 6,000 hectares of publicly-owned land.

 

Group chairman Henry Graham said the report’s reference to Ireland’s changes in income tax relief on rented land – which has changed the structure ‘hugely’ – should be implemented by Westminster.

 

Tenant Farmers Association chief executive George Dunn added there were public policies working against the objective of providing housing solutions ‘which must be changed’.

He said: “There is a stock of housing which is restricted or tied to individuals who have worked in agriculture.

 

“It is too easy for owners of dwellings upon which agricultural restrictions apply to have the restrictions removed.”

 

CAAV secretary and adviser Jeremy Moody added farming was a ‘multi-generational venture’.

 

He said: “Around 84 per cent are second generation, but measures to enable the retirement of the older generation and the opening of doors for the younger generation are severely restricted.

 

“Yet we shall need the greatest flexibility in this to manage post-Brexit change in the sector and give opportunities to the next generation.

 

“Sufficient housing is needed by everyone in the sector, but it is frequently scarce and expensive in rural areas.”

 

CLA president Tim Breitmeyer reiterated the association’s calls for changes to planning policy in England to encourage the building of new homes in the countryside for when farmers retire.

 

“Our plans recognise the unique circumstances that many in agriculture are working under, and would alleviate concerns many have over succession, enabling retired farmers to continue to provide advice and support, and even generate a small income, living close to the family business,” he said.

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