Category Archive: Uncategorised

Planning Permission: achieving a positive outcome against officer advice

Our team of Planning Consultants have been working hard to seek planning permission for five new dwellings near Christon Bank in Northumberland; the site has now been approved by the local area council despite being initially recommended for refusal by planning officers.

Planning Permission

About the site

The site in question is currently a stable block and arena on a farm surrounded by existing dwellings, just 400 metres from the village of Christon Bank; however, amongst six other reasons, the site was recommended for refusal on sustainability grounds (referring to its open countryside location).

Gaining approval

After initial recommendation for refusal, Craig Ross, a Partner at George F. White, addressed committee and requested they visit the site to see its close proximity to Christon Bank in order to show that the site wasn’t functionally or physically isolated, therefore making it a sustainable location for new development.

The local area council then went against initial recommendation of planning officers and granted planning permission on the condition that more information is submitted regarding:

  • Noise;
  • Contamination;
  • Heritage;
  • Odour;
  • and Drainage

This is fantastic news as it is typical that a landowner / developer seeking planning permission would have to supply this information prior to the certainty of a positive outcome, thus saving on upfront costs.

What does this mean for other landowners?

If you’re a landowner with land adjacent to, but not necessarily in, a settlement or have been disheartened by prior planning permission refusals due to initial officer feedback then now might be the time to try again for seek planning permission.

Please get in touch with out planning teams today:
Alnwick – 01665 603231
Wolsingham – 01388 527966
Bedale – ​01677 425301

EU Departure: is your business currently in a position to remain successful?

With our departure from the EU, one of the biggest changes in history for UK agriculture, on the horizon, Elliot Taylor asks, is your business currently in a position to remain successful and achieve its objectives?

Exit EU

In an uncertain political environment, as it is in the UK right now, it’s increasingly difficult to predict the future impact our exit from the EU will have on business.  However, instead of contemplating our departure from the EU and tormenting ourselves about the impact it could have on the rural economy, I believe it’s time to put measures in place to ensure, whatever happens, your rural businesses is as resilient as possible to weather any potential ‘Brexit storm’.

I have written previously that understanding your business and exploring all opportunities for growth is vital.  You must ask questions like – What opportunities are there to make a change, invest or secure long-term business growth? What government or grant funding is available? What will be the impact from new Government policy and how can I benefit from it?  If I want to sell, what is my asset worth, what does the market look like and when is the best time? And, how do I better utilise my available assets now?

There’s a lot of information and advice available, and due to ever changing policies, requirements and eligibility rules it can be puzzling at the best of times. Our team of expert farm business consultants, planning consultants, rural surveyors and project managers have been working closely with clients over the past 18 months to help them understand their exposure to the loss of subsidy, to review their business assets and to secure their future financial stability and growth.  Our teams have a wealth of knowledge and are committed to helping clients achieve personal and business goals whilst seizing all available opportunities.

For example, in early January, several LEADER funds reopened; providing another chance for rural businesses to access government funding before we leave the EU. Despite the application window being desperately small, many of our clients were already in a position to consider applying for these grants.

In February, we will be holding a series of seminars discussing the opportunities for rural business to improve performance and reduce risk within these uncertain times. Events will take place between the 18th and 26th February in Duns, Alnwick, Corbridge, Sedgefield, Northallerton and Pocklington. Our team will be on hand to provide advice on how you can maximise your assets, grasp those opportunities and of course will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

For more information on our seminars and how to sign up, click here.

Celebrating Success: 40 years of business diversification

2018 was a year of success for George F. White as the firm strengthened its foothold in the North East commercial property sector, celebrated a year in its Newcastle City Centre office and expanded its range of services. Richard Garland is Head of Tyne and Wear at George F. White and spearheading the development of the business’ on-going diversification from its rural roots across the urban sectors. Here, he looks back at the business’ journey and forward to the future as the firm gets ready to celebrate its 40th anniversary.


“George F. White was formed by George White (who remains as Partner in the Firm) in 1979 in the market town of Alnwick; the business began as a small team of rural consultants, an industry we are still proud to serve comprehensively to this day. As George’s, team grew, so did our service offering of specialist services. Thanks to the foundations George laid, the business has been able to diversify with notable success; a journey we continue on today. Over ten years ago, we took the decision to invest in our planning and development team, they now represent over a quarter of our business, with success being driven by high quality specialist advice. This is a model we are now replicating within our commercial team. Already covering commercial property valuations, landlord and tenant and agency services alongside an energy consultancy (including commercial EPC’s), this year we have added building surveying to our offering through the appointment of James Cullen, who recently joined us as Head of Building Surveying. This has been a successful move and in line with our plan, we are looking to expand the team in the New Year.

Our Newcastle city centre office is now an evolving hub for our planning and development, lettings, energy and commercial property teams; in 2019, we plan to further strengthen our presence in the urban market, both in Newcastle and further afield.

Alongside investment in our Tyne and Wear offering, we have been working hard on our strategic expansion plans and have identified potential to grow turnover by 25% over the next three years. That includes significant investment in the business’ systems, offices and flexible working systems.”

Speaking about the thought behind plans to invest, Richard said: “We have a clear plan as to where the Partners and team leaders wish to take the business over the next three years. At the heart of that is a focus on our client care and the quality of our output; the way we communicate with our clients and our colleagues has changed beyond recognition during my time at the business. We have significant investment planned over the next year; alongside the focus on quality, we are also modernising our whole business, including our offices, providing a high quality environment for our clients and staff, whose needs have also changed. As part of our strategic investment, technology will allow all of our staff to work more flexibly and deliver a higher quality client service. This business is built around succession and the Millennial generation will be the key to our future success. Rather than resisting change we are proud to be embracing new technology in the constant drive to make us stand out.”

Public Goods: How are you going to future proof your farming business?

We have all now had an opportunity to read and process Michael Gove’s proposal for the future of agricultural support payments, public money for public goods… James Thompson, Graduate Surveyor at George F. White, discusses what it all actually means and the decisions that farmers must make to maintain profitability.

Firstly, what are public goods?

By definition, a public good is a ‘non-excludable and non-competitive’ good. A common example, used outside of agriculture, is street lighting. Having street lighting is not competitive nor is it excludable to a single consumer; when I consume that good, it doesn’t stop anyone else from consuming it at the same time.

Public Goods

DEFRA will be looking to fund the public goods under the following categories:

  1. Enhancing the environment
  2. Farming in remote areas and rural resilience
  3. Public access to countryside
  4. Improving the productivity and competitiveness of farming
  5. Animal and plant health and animal welfare

The proposed Agricultural Bill, which will shape the UK’s future Agricultural Policy, indicates that, the current Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will be phased out and replaced by the above funding streams. It is therefore imperative that, individual businesses establish how exposed they are to the loss of the farm subsidies. As an example, according to The Farm Business Survey, the average farming business in the North East makes £71/ac profit.  This is includes £97/ac support from BPS and Ag Environmental Schemes. Farming business need to build business resilience over the transition period, reducing their reliance on support payments and understanding how best to access “public money for public goods”.

Exploring the options

Based on the five categories of funding for public goods, there is a decision to me made; a focus on delivering actual public goods (categories one to three) or in improving efficiency and competitiveness of agri-products (categories three and four).

Firstly, let’s focus delivering actual public goods. We state that these are ‘actual’ public goods as they are truly non excludable or competitive; we all enjoy the British countryside, whether that be breathing in the fresh air or enjoying family walks and activities in the outdoors.

It is likely that the replacement of current environmental schemes could be highly geared towards protecting soil, improving water quality or even the management of carbon; this could result in more productive land being withdrawn from food production enterprises. It is also entirely possible that funding for open access to the countryside (unavailable in previous environmental schemes) could be reinstated into the new Environmental Land Management schemes (ELM’s) and could be lucrative.

Secondly, you may choose to focus on improving efficiency and competitiveness, for example, improving animal health and welfare or reducing nitrogen and chemical use. In addition to this, with an aim to increase competitiveness of farm businesses, the government has already committed £30 million to the Countryside Productivity Small Grants scheme with emphasis to increase opportunities that high tech and precision farming equipment can deliver. We expect the next round of this scheme to be launched next spring and it is suggested a number of new options will be available to farmers.

There are crucial decisions to be made, but that will be entirely dependent on your business health and its financial exposure to current support payment, resulting in the magnitude of change required to provide a resilient future income to you and your family. That being said, and having conducted research on this topic, many farm businesses in the North East and Yorkshire believe that the best way to safeguard against a decrease in subsidy payments is to improve business efficiency, learn from top performing farms and explore new income streams including diversification.

I will leave you with a question to ponder: Having defined and discussed public goods – does food security constitute as a public good? Consequently, should food production be supported by government funding?

If you would like to understand in more detail how exposed your farming business is to the ceasing of direct subsidy’s payments, then contact your local Farm Consultanct: