Rural & Agricultural Land Update April 2014

The rural and agricultural land update highlights important, useful and interesting developments that have taken place in relation to agriculture and rural land recently.

Changes to Law and Practice
Government announces results of Red Tape Challenge to agricultural legislation

In January 2014, the Department for Environment, food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published its proposals to simplify farming regulations in England in response to the governments Red Tape challenge to review agricultural legislation.  DEFRA has announced proposals to improve or remove over 50% of the 516 regulations examined.  The proposals cover plant health and forestry, animal health and welfare and other agricultural legislation.  DEFRA says that, by Spring 2015, it will simplify guidance on the regulations.

Regulations Concludes Designation of Revised Nitrate Vulnerable Zones in England
The Nitrate Pollution Prevention (Designation and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 came into force on the 18th November 2013.  The regulations give statutory effects to the revised designation of certain nitrate vulnerable zones in England.

Agriculture (Cross Compliance) (No.2) (Amendment) Regulations 2013
The Agriculture (Cross Compliance) (No.2) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 amends the 2009 regulations.  The Cross Compliance Amendment Regulations add provisions under the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2010 (failure to comply with requirements relating to ground water activities) to the list of provisions which constitute failures of cross compliance by claimants of subsidy under the single payment scheme.

Abolition of the Committee on Agricultural Valuation
The government proposes to abolish the Committee on Agricultural Valuation (CAV) and intends to lay a draft order under the Public Bodies Act to abolish the CAV.  The CAV was established under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 (AHA 1986) to advise ministers on the regulations dealing with the amount of compensation payable for improvements at the end of an agricultural tenancy.  The regulations currently in force are the Agriculture (Calculation of Value for Compensation) Regulations 1978.  CAV has not met for 20 years.  Since 2002 advice on tenancy matters has been provided by the tenancy reform industry group (TRIG).

Changes to necessary wayleave regime in force on 1st October 2013
The Electricity (Necessary Wayleaves and Felling and Lopping of trees) (Hearing Procedures) (England & Wales) Rules 2013 and the Electricity (Necessary Wayleaves and Felling and Lopping of Trees) (Charges) (England & Wales) Regulations 2013 came into force on the 1st October 2013.  The regulations introduced new hearing rules and a new fee structure for necessary wayleave and tree lopping applications under Schedule 4 to The Electricity Act 1989.

Livestock movement rules simplified
The government has announced that, following the recommendations of the Farming Regulation Task Force report, from 2016, they will cut bureaucracy and red tape governing livestock movement rules by:

  • Allowing sheep farmers to increase the size of their farms from 5 miles to 10 miles thus allowing the movement of livestock without the need to report it
  • Reducing the need to report grazing on temporary land within 10 miles of the farm
  • Scrapping Sole Occupancy Authorities (SOA’s) and Capital Tracing System (CTS) links to make cattle more traceable but reducing red tape.

Transfer of existing agri-environment schemes
Natural England (NE) has confirmed that on the transfer of any land subject to an existing agri-environment agreement, it will produce an agreement to transfer the remaining commitments to the new occupier.  This is regardless of whether the transfer is a sale or a change in a tenancy arrangement, provided that the new occupier is willing to accept responsibility for the delivery of the remainder of the obligations under that agreement.

Environment Agency and Natural England Published Joint Action Plan
In December 2013, the Environment Agency (EA) in Natural England (NE) published a joint action plan.  This is a combined response to the recommendations of the triennial review of the two bodies carried out by DEFRA from late 2012 to early 2013.  The joint action plan sets out various proposals to improve the EA’s and NE’s services and efficiency, including;

  • Sharing agricultural information
  • Co-ordinating scheduled farm visits and integrating advise to farmers and land managers
  • Building on the success of Catchment Sensitive Farming capital grants where the EA and NE work together on improving the infrastructure on farms to reduce pollution to water courses

Key Cases
Weight to be given to the preservation of the setting of listed buildings when considering planning applications (Court of Appeal)

In Barnwell Manor Wind Energy Limited v East Northhamptonshire District Council and others [2014] EWCA CIV137, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the High Court confirming that the planning inspector had failed to fulfil his statutory duty under section 66 (1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

An energy company had sought planning permission for a five turbine wind farm in the vicinity of a wide range of heritage assets, including Lyveden New Bield (the property), which was one of the most significant of those assets.  It was generally accepted that the property had a cultural value of national, if not international significance.

The court quashed the planning permission that had been granted.  It stated that, although the planning inspector found that there would be harm to the setting of the many listed buildings, the inspector did not give considerable weight to the desirability of preserving the setting of those buildings.

This case will be welcome by those seeking to object to a planning application for wind farms.  It will also be of interest to local planning authorities as it clearly sets out the weight that a planning inspector should attribute to the preservation of listed buildings when considering a planning application.

CAP REFORM: Latest News
Basic regulations published
The four basic EU regulations of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have been published in the official journal:

  • Rural development
  • Horizontal issues such as funding and controls
  • Direct payments for farmers
  • Market measures

To ensure there can be a smooth transition next year there is also a transitional Regulation for 2014.  The regulations reflect the political agreement between the European Commission, EU members’ states, agriculture ministers (in the Council) and the European Parliament earlier this year.

The European Commission has also published a useful memo explaining the main terms of CAP reform.

DEFRA is expected to issue the implementing regulations of reforms to CAP in England, for 2015 to 2020, after completion of it’s consultation on the 28th November 2013.

CAP is an EU programme to support farming and rural development.  The consultation sought views on the reforms, in particular:

  • Direct payments to farmers
  • The greening requirements of direct payments i.e. “greening” means the further enhancement of the environmental sustainability of farming in the EU
  • The transfer between the budget for direct payments to the budget for rural development in England
  • The focus of the Rural Development Programme

Rural Development Programme in England
DEFRA is currently working on the framework for the new Rural Development Programme in England (RDPE).  RDPE provides funding for projects to improve agriculture, the environment and rural life in England.  The new programme will be launched in 2015 but the expected start date for the agri-environmental scheme is the 1st January 2016.  Transitional arrangements are in place for the current year.  DEFRA has updated it’s advice on transitional arrangements.

CAP allocations for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
The UK government has announced that farmers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will receive the same proportion of the £20 billion Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget over the next 7 years as they currently receive.