Category Archive: Rural Business

LEADER Grant Aids Growth Of Woodland Management Business

Coquetdale Timber, a woodland management and logging business based in Northumberland, is looking forward to a 40% plus growth in business by the end of the current financial year.

The business, set up in March 2017, is a diversification of the J Robson & Son farming operation and is managed by Michael Robson, his brother Andrew and Michael’s son Thomas from their base at Hepple Whitefield Farm near Rothbury.

Whilst there was a business plan the company has enjoyed organic growth over the last three years as their reputation for being able to be flexible on the scale and type of service provided has spread around the region.

“We were approached by an individual not long after we started the business to construct lambing hurdles and now produce in excess of one thousand a year,” said Thomas.

In addition of the delivery of barn seasoned softwood and hardwood logs to a variety of clients across Northumberland and into Tyneside, an area of the business which will see more than 40% growth year on year, the team also provides a wide range of bespoke services including:

  • Low impact forestry services – hand tree felling, tractor and trailer extraction
  • Woodland management
  • Sawmill services with the ability to cut anything up to 27 inches in diameter on-site as well as mobile timber processing with a cutting range up to 15 inches diameter

“Our client base has grown significantly since the business launch and we are now involved in providing feed troughs, cladding, fence posts and rails, raised beds and even cut oak boards which a local company transform into bespoke mantlepieces for clients purchasing a stove from them” advised Mr Robson.

As part of that growth, the family realised that they needed to invest in equipment that would allow them to scale up the business and ensure they were operating efficiently and effectively.

“We contacted George F. White, as they have been assisting us with the wider farming business for several years, for business advice and where we should be going. After looking through the business Jamie recommended the RDPE LEADER grants to help fund the purchase of new equipment” said Michael.

After looking at a variety of equipment options that the business could use to expand, they opted to purchase a new forwarder trailer and winch. George F. White made contact with the Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group (NULAG); a branch of the RDPE LEADER programme which looked at funding a number of different priorities, such as farm diversification, business growth, woodland and processing. From here George F. White worked closely with the Programme and undertook the initial expression of interest submission. Upon this approval, George F. White liaised with Coquetdale Timber to prepare and submit the grant application, and following a successful outcome then prepared and submitted the appropriate claim.

The business took delivery of the equipment in late 2019 and are already seeing the benefits, “The new trailer and winch allow us to access areas in a considered and low impact way that larger operations may not adopt and at the same time ensuring we can undertake tasks efficiently and safely, it really has already proved its value to the business” commented Thomas. “Being a relatively small business the ability to utilise the LEADER grant programme and reduce the cost outlay by 40% is of huge benefit to us as without this funding the business would not have purchased such a large item. We were extremely happy to be able to rely on the team at George F. White to understand our needs and provide the appropriate assistance is invaluable”.

If you would like to discuss your business and explore the potential options for grants or a strategic review please call 0333 920 2220

Open for business – focused on the future

Without a doubt the Covid-19 pandemic has shaped the immediate future on a global scale. At George F. White we are firmly focussed on the future, embracing the opportunities that arise from change and providing our clients with exceptional service. We are seeing increased activity across all of our services and are here to help.

Our priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our clients and colleagues therefore following recent government announcements we at this time continue to keep our offices closed to the general public, however, the business remains to be fully operational with minimal staffing across our offices with the majority of our team working remotely from home.

We have fully embraced technology and can provide assistance across our full range of services.

Further to this we have in line with government guidance developed our George F. White C-19 three-point policy to ensure that we can conduct our business in a safe manner for both our clients and colleagues and our team can meet and help our clients to embrace opportunities under this guidance.

We are open for business, focused on the future.

 

Robyn Peat
Managing Partner

Geographic Information Systems

If you are a business, which is spread across multiple sites or has an interest in understanding or expanding its geographical reach, then chances are you should be using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

GIS has been around for a long time, but we are only just beginning to fully realise its applications for businesses, particularly those operating in property, mining, engineering, logistics, and the environment.

James Brett, GIS Mapping Manager at George F. White chartered surveyors and property consultants says: “GIS is gaining momentum in terms of public awareness as people are starting to clock on to the value it can provide.”

GIS can be understood as a kind of digital footprint for documenting and visualising information geographically. “The fundamentals of GIS are to manipulate, create and analyse spatial data”, adds James. Google Earth is a form of GIS in its simplest form, in that it allows you to add markers, lines and shapes, populate tables and visualise dense geographic data on a map. But the capabilities of Google Earth are fairly narrow compared to a GIS platform that’s developed specifically to do spatial analyses of almost any kind. GIS allows you to visualise all of your data with geographical context and there are numerous reasons why you might want to do this.

Maybe you are a property investor and you need to keep tabs on your portfolio or a supermarket targeting demand by using demographic data for a new site. You might be a landowner involved in a legal dispute over the boundaries of your ownership or a leisure operator trying to find a new site to build on. You could even be a government agency trying to plan new flood defences or a mountain rescue service trying to map avalanche risk.

GIS can be applied to make a real impact on all of these different scenarios. James adds: “If I were to summarise what GIS does brilliantly, it is facilitating more educated decision-making.” The site finding and property management aspects of GIS are where George F. White has a real strength, not just regionally but nationally as well.

James explains: “One of the largest projects that I’ve worked on was to help a national mining company find a new resource of rock to extract from the ground. They were looking for some 20 million tonnes of a particular rock type and we used GIS to visualise the relevant geological data and omit geographical areas that lie within areas of outstanding natural beauty or national parks, essentially places where you can’t dig. “We were basically identifying which areas of land have the best opportunity of ascertaining planning permission to extract millions of tonnes of rock from.” If you are looking for a new site to develop or extract resources from, then you need as much spatial information about the surrounding area as possible before making a decision.

GIS is also useful in property management for those companies who have hundreds/thousands of properties across vast distances because it allows them to visualise where they are on an interactive map and filter the data themselves based on things like when lease agreements might be up for renewal on the properties. James continues: “If you have 200 properties in your portfolio, then you want to visualise the service charge cost, return on investment, EPC ratings which can introduce an economy of scale by helping you decide which properties to renovate based on proximity.”

One of George F. White’s new clients that will benefit from this function is Teesside International Airport. “The objective with the airport is to take the property management portfolio and organise it,” James explains. “We’re going to be visualising all the tenure information, defining clearly all the legal boundaries and inputting all the landlord data, the tenant data, any legal documents and ultimately host and present these layers on an interactive map for the client to access.”

On the national scale, the big players in spatial data, from the Land Registry to the Environment Agency, are beginning to release more of their data to the public which is allowing GIS experts to formulate geographic layers to support business operations.

The Environment Agency have made LiDAR data available for any member of the public to download. GIS specialists are using LiDAR data to create accurate 3D models of the ground to help perform hydraulic modelling for flood analysis to figure out where best to place a dam or divert a river or build better flood defences. Given that climate change will increase both the frequency and severity of flooding in the UK, this function will be incredibly important in the future. “I think GIS has a pretty fundamental part to play in preventing future flooding,” James maintains.

Although the applications of GIS in the property sector are vast, not many firms have a dedicated and experienced team or a GIS service that they can shout about, which is what sets George F. White apart. From site finding to hydraulic modelling, GIS is facilitating better decision-making in a variety of sectors. Chances are there’s a problem in your business, which GIS could help solve.

If you would like to discuss GIS further and in particular how it might help your organisation please contact James Brett on 01665 511983 or click here to email.

Bill of Change, what’s to come for UK farmers

For the first time in my life, the UK is not a member of the European Union. As a result, on 15th January 2020 the Government published the second iteration of the Agricultural Bill. In summary the Agricultural Bill sets out a framework of new Agricultural Policies and transition measures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Bill is a crucial cornerstone of the Governments’ future farming and land management policy.

Practically, what does this mean for farmers and land owners?

The Bill clearly sets out that direct subsidy payments (BPS) will be phased out between 2021 to 2027. This means that the current application window to the Basic Payment Scheme will be the last under the current subsidy scheme as we know it. In 2021 reductions in payments will begin. Although there is nothing specifically set out in The Bill, a DEFRA policy statement released in September 2019 clearly sets out the payment bandings and percentage reductions, these operating in a similar way to Income Tax with the reductions only applying to the claim amount within that band. It is likely that further reduction percentages will increase over the transition period until the final payments are made in 2027 scheme year.

Unfortunately, as we know many farming businesses, since the early 90’s, have based their business models on the receipt of IACS, SPS and more recently BPS. To put this into some sort of perspective, according to the FARM BUSINESS SERVICE DATA 2018-2019 the average English cereal farmer relies on BPS income for 58% of their Profit. Within the same survey a less favoured area, grazing livestock farmer relies on 186% of its profit from BPS income, this is a startling figure and would mean the average LFA livestock farmer would be making a significant loss when the BPS payment is phased out in 2027.

The Bill also sets out that it could be possible to roll up a number of future BPS payments and these could be taken as a lump sum. It is clear that the Governments’ intention with this is to assist farmers to either retire, diversify, improve efficiencies or to make it easier for new entrants into the industry.

De-linking is a significant change, payments will be continued to be made to current recipients of BPS, however in the future it is understood that these recipients would no longer have to be actively farming. As I understand it this, coupled with the ability to “roll up” BPS payments, is to accelerate change within the industry and to help free up land and farms that could help existing farmers or new entrants into the industry.

What is the focus of the Bill?

It is understood that there will be new financial assistance powers which will enable payments to be made to farmers for a range of public goods. These payments will be made for such items as providing habitats for wildlife, reducing flood risk, preventing climate change, improving public access and protecting iconic features. In England the Government is in the process of developing the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), this will be part of the delivery mechanism, working towards the provision of public goods. This scheme is being piloted in a number of areas at the moment and is hoped to be rolled out in 2024, half way through the Agricultural Transition period. If farmers were thinking that this was going to replace the direct subsidy scheme I would suggest that this is not going to be the case at all. The ELMS scheme will be very targeted in what it delivers and I’m assuming will be no-where near the level of financial rewards that current CSS/HLS/BPS schemes deliver to regional farming businesses.

In short the profitability of farming businesses are going to be reduced over the next 7 years. It is important for farmers to understand the impact of what is on the horizon, we have time ahead of us to improve the performance of farming businesses and decrease their reliance on subsidy and in preparation for this we are holding a series of regional talks over the coming months to discuss the Agricultural Bill in more detail and its potential effects on family farming succession.

We are hosting a series of regional seminars which will include discussion on the Agricultural Bill which will run between 24th February and 4th March, for more details visit www.georgefwhite.co.uk/planning-for-change or call your regional office.

Simon Britton, Partner – Head of Farm at George F. White 07866 721146 / simonbritton@georgefwhite.co.uk

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