Category Archive: Uncategorised

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:

The Christmas Present Project: Helping Disadvantaged Children this Christmas

We are working on the Christmas Present Project alongside The Rotary Club of Alnwick.

What is the Christmas Present Project?

It’s heart-breaking to think there is a child in our local community that will receive nothing this Christmas. Due to the Rotary Club of Alnwick, disadvantaged children in the community will receive a Christmas present.

This years initiative came into play on the back of the 2017 Christmas Project, where the response was phenomenal with the wider public becoming heavily involved. Consequently, our team is supporting the efforts of the The Rotary Club of Alnwick by:

  • Supporting marketing efforts
  • Agreeing the use of the Alnwick office to become a drop off point for children’s presents

George White said “It’s extremely important for us to ensure that we are supporting the local community in the best way we can. Last year, our office was overflowing with presents, it was heart-warming, therefore, we urge the local people of Alnwick and surrounding areas to help us again this year to make Christmas a happy one!”

Christmas Present Project

Who is ‘Rotary’?

Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million people who come together to make positive, lasting change in communities at home and abroad. For more than 110 years, Rotary members have used their passion, energy, and intelligence to take action on sustainable projects.

What do they do?

Rotary members believe that they have a shared responsibility to take action on our world’s most persistent issues. Their 35,000+ clubs work together to:

  • Promote peace
  • Fight disease
  • Provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene
  • Save mothers and children
  • Support education
  • Grow local economies

Take part in the Christmas Present Project

The Christmas Present Project will be open from now until Friday 14th December, therefore, if you would like to take part, please buy a gift for a child between the ages of new-born and sixteen, pop it into a bag (there is no need to wrap!) and take it to one of the following collection points:

• George F. White
• Specsavers
• Morrisons

The Rotary Club of Alnwick will distribute your kind presents before Christmas Day.

Wendy Dorothy, Credit Control at George F. White and member of The Rotary Club of Alnwick said: “Rotarian, Jill Clark, is leading the Christmas Present Project again, which was incredibly successful last year with around one hundred children receiving presents due to the generosity of our local community. Above all, it is so heart-warming to see the lovely presents that are donated to this worthwhile cause that makes Christmas a little special for deserving local children and it certainly would be fantastic to be able to expand on the project’s success.”

Autumn: the perfect time to prepare your farm for a spring market launch

Duncan Clarke, Associate, explains why autumn is the perfect time to prepare your farm for a spring market launch.

The recent publication of the Agriculture Bill has, perhaps, given us some idea of the future of the industry post BREXIT. Whilst many column inches have already been written about the implications of the bill, should it become law, much can change between now and the end of March 2019.

Some farmers and landowners will undoubtedly see the opportunities which BREXIT will present, however, I am almost certain that there will be a squeeze on farm incomes going forward and whilst there are a myriad factors which influence land values, and the direct connection between the value of an acre of land and its earning capacity has long since been largely severed; for some this may be the trigger to put the farm on the market.

Traditionally spring is when farms are launched onto the market; potential vendors looking to do so should be making preparations now and indeed over the winter months, to ensure a smooth launch next year.

Farms need to stand out to attract potential buyers in what can often be a crowded spring market; if farms are not properly presented they can easily be overlooked.  So, what can, and indeed should, vendors be doing now to ensure the best possible chances of success in the spring?

The winter months tend to be quieter on the farm so any spare time should be used to undertake repairs and improvements to property, including redecoration of houses etc. Time should also be taken on having a good tidy up so that, come spring, the farm looks at its best and is in a ‘move into’ condition.

Thought should also be given now as to whether there are any development opportunities that can be exploited to add value to the farm. Permitted Development Rights were extended in 2014 with the introduction of Class Q which means that, since then, it has been somewhat easier to secure the conversion of redundant farm buildings to a residential use. As part of this process the landowner should ensure that they have all the evidence they need to meet the various planning requirements and thus, avoid any uncertainty as to the eligibility of the building during the conveyancing process itself.

The winter months are also a good time to make sure that all paperwork is in order and to prepare sales particulars and marketing literature. Clear, sunny winter days can provide a great backdrop against photographs, videos and promotional material. Many professional photographers now use drones to take wider angle shots of the farm and if these are all taken in the right conditions over winter, they will really make the farm stand out in spring.

Alongside making sure the marketing literature is all in place, potential vendors will need to make sure that any residential tenancies, cropping licences, short term grazing arrangements etc. are brought to an end or at least properly documented so that the farm can be sold with the certainty of vacant possession or, if this is not possible so that vendors know exactly on what basis they will be taking on existing occupiers. Thought will also need to be given as to how existing employees will be looked after.

For more information and advice on launching your farm to the market, please contact Duncan Clarke on 07834 321429 or alternatively, by emailing

Restrictive Covenants: how well do you know what you own?

We sat down with Andrew Entwistle, Partner and Head of Valuations at George F. White, to discuss his approach to buying property and the advice that he would give to others in regards to restrictive covenants.

restrictive covenants

I frequently joke with a friend who happens to be hopeless with anything technical or mechanical on his attitude to paperwork and instructions. I maintain his first step, when buying anything new, is to immediately locate the instructions in the box and then throw them away. He then proceeds to try to get the item to work on pure luck and guesswork. He usually fails and then asks me for help.

I can relate this to my work. When giving advice to clients for the first time, I usually ask, where are your deeds? The reason I ask is because I typically find that most clients don’t know what is in their deeds. I am looking for restrictions in how their property can be used as the client usually has a proposal to consider, perhaps a sale, a new building or development project, or, is looking to raise some money. Restrictions can have a big impact on value; therefore, time after time such restrictions are forgotten about, or, in some cases simply not known about.

There are many different types of restrictions, claw backs, statutory/planning, and pre-emptions but for this article I will concentrate on restrictive covenants.

Restrictive covenants are, in simple terms, a promise not to do something on your land so as not to detrimentally affect land that was in the same ownership (retained land) from the person you acquired from. Such covenants are commonplace and it is rare to see the conveyance without them. Prior to the introduction of claw backs/overage they were used as a method of extracting extra value from land that had been previously sold on the basis the previous owner needed to give consent for a particular activity. For example, if there was a restrictive covenant that said land can only be used for agricultural purposes, only then consent would be needed before that land could be developed for housing. Such consent would normally only be granted in return for a high price.

At the start of the 19th century the government realised that national infrastructure was being inhibited by previous landowners demanding large ransom sums to release restrictive covenants in cases when development would have no detrimental effect on retained land. The Law of Property Act 1925 put in place a mechanism where restrictive covenants could be modified or removed with compensation being payable to the previous owner on the basis of their loss, not on the basis of the increase in value due to development. The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) deals with these cases and a person affected by restrictive covenant can apply to have it modified or removed to allow their proposals to proceed. The practical issue is that with any litigation, such action can be costly and take a considerable amount of time. There are also important pre-requisites before making such an application such as obtaining planning consent for your proposals.

In some cases it is possible to insure relatively cheaply against any restrictive covenant issues, particularly if the covenants are old. However if you ‘break cover’ and contact the owner of the covenant, the insurance opportunity may be lost. If insurance is not possible then informed and intelligent negotiations at an early stage can protect you and save you being put into the position where you are held to ransom for a large payment in order to realise your development.

“Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted” and I apologise for using this cliché yet again. Most restrictive covenants can be dealt with providing you are aware of them and have time to take the appropriate actions to reduce their cost implications.

To find out more, contact Andrew on 0797 751 8156 or