News: September 2013

Date posted: 20/09/13

Farm Building Conversion Consultation

Northern Farmers and Landowners Group (NFLG) welcomes the consultation on converting redundant farm buildings to houses, but laments the lack of “North East Proofing”.

The current Government consultation on extending Permitted Development Rights to allow redundant farm buildings to be converted to a maximum of three residential units, of a maximum size of 150sq m, is to be welcomed says the NFLG, but is very short on detail, particularly in areas which affect the North East.

“The site of redundant farm buildings slowly falling into dilapidation, with new uses restricted by planning policies, has been a frustration for many years” says Angus Collingwood-Cameron, Lead Consultant with NFLG, “Conversion to residential use may not be perfect in everybody’s eyes, but it is certainly a great deal better than just letting these buildings fall down, which has often been the case. Therefore, the idea of allowing limited residential development via Permitted Development Rights should be applauded.

“However, while we all welcome brevity in Government documents, addressing this issue in only two pages is rather extreme and raises more questions than it answers. From a North East perspective, the document says nothing about how the rights could impact in a tenanted situation, nor how the rights could interact with other consents in larger steadings, both of which we have plenty. Furthermore, a strict size limit of 150 sq m per residential unit will not fit well with the practical reality of converting farm buildings.”

“The proposal is very well intentioned, but we do need more detail on how it would work in reality.”

Date posted: 20/09/13

CAP Reform England v Scotland

England v. Scotland in Common Agricultural Policy Reform

With now less than a year to go to the Scottish referendum on independence, the Northern Farmers and Landowners Group (NFLG) warn that it is not the only cross-border show in town. Later this autumn, Defra will decide on the Common Agricultural Policy budget distribution between England and the devolved parliaments of the Union, which have retained powers on how it is distributed to farmers.

“The Common Agricultural Policy seems to be getting less common the whole time” says Angus Collingwood-Cameron, representing NFLG, “and North East farmers will bear the brunt of inequality. For a start the Scottish payments are allocated on a different basis to the English payments. Then there is the issue of the voluntary modulation of direct payments, where by direct farm payments are transferred into the rural development budget by national Governments. Defra has always been keen on this approach but will Scotland follow suit? Scotland could also re-couple payments to livestock production, which Defra has ruled out.

“There is a danger that Northumbrian farmers could be significantly worse off than their neighbours over the Tweed, all due to a supposedly “Common” policy. That would be ridiculous. During its discussions with the Scottish Government, Defra must ensure that CAP creates a level playing field between Scottish farmers and their English neighbours.” 

Date posted: 20/09/13

Letter in defence of Landowners in regard to wind power

Dear Sir,

At first glance, Ian Kerr (Letters 8th August) would seem to have a point in castigating “wealthy landowners” who he sees as “queuing up” for wind farm developments. But is he really correct to have such a go at landowners in this way?

He is quite right to highlight the large sums of money on offer from wind farm subsidies. What business could resist such an opportunity? Perfectly true to say that some landowners cant resist the opportunity. Some may genuinely believe that they are helping combat climate change, some may be looking to simply improve their standard of living, while others will be addressing a real economic need and financially securing their holding for future generations.

However, let us not forget the very significant number of local landowners, both large and small, who are very much opposed to wind farm developments in the North East. The vociferous will lead national and local opposition groups, and often will be featured in this newspaper. The silent will not make their land available and will support the opposition in other ways. There are many landowners in the North East who are perfectly prepared to fore go self-enrichment for what they see as the greater public good.

So, Mr Kerr, the “wind farm whingers” as you describe them, may well have a point in attacking the subsidy system as created by Government policy, the wind farm developers and the approach of our planning authorities, rather than the landowners, many of whom are dead set against such development in the North East.