Landowners debate how to diversify their business ahead of Brexit

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More than 100 Lincolnshire landowners discussed how they can diversify their business streams in a changing changing political environment at the annual Savills seminar at Stoke Rochford Hall in Grantham.

They explored everything from the outlook for the local agricultural land market to tax issues and VAT risk for rural landowners, whilst also looking at new uses through the planning process, and issues and traps to look out for when entering new business ventures; to getting your business ready for the changes brought by Brexit.

Johnny Dudgeon, rural director and head of the Lincoln office at international real estate adviser Savills, who chaired the event, said: “We were delighted to welcome so many local landowners to our annual rural briefing again this year.

“Landowners are facing an unprecedented level of change at present: from shifts in the political landscape as Article 50 is triggered to the state of the rural land market.

“As a result, we felt it was particularly important to focus our efforts on adding value in a changing environment this year and we hope the event has highlighted some important priorities for local landowners.”

Guests at the seminar at Stoke Rochford Hall

Andrew Pearce, head of the Midlands farm agency team at Savills Lincoln, explained how land in Great Britain has been a good investment over the last 10 years as it’s now worth 97% more than it was in 2007, with average land values doubling from £3,469 per acre to £6,831 an acre.

He said: “In the Midlands, farmland as an asset class has been an excellent investment as prices have increased dramatically over the last 10 years, but we are now entering a period of change due to political and economic uncertainty which has had an impact on the region’s commercial arable land.

“The price range now is anywhere from sub £6,000 an acre all the way up to in excess of £10,000 per acre depending on location and quality in particular. Amenity land on the other hand has increased in value and we anticipate will continue to do so over the next few years.

“Regarding the future outlook, our research department predicts that supply of land to the market will continue to be restricted but grade 3 commercial arable values in some parts of the region could come under pressure, particularly if interest rates continue to increase.”

Jane Hill, partner at Saffery Champness covered tips and traps in relation to land and agricultural enterprises.  She said: “There are a number of pitfalls that that can trip landowners up when looking to take advantage of current tax relief.  It is important to get the planning right to make sure any claims are successful.”

“For landowners, getting the tax and VAT right can make the difference between profit and loss on a development project,: said David McGeachy, partner and VAT expert at Saffery Champness. “Given the Chancellor’s recent Budget commitment to deliver 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s, the future pitfalls and opportunities will be numerous.”