DIVERSIFICATION – SOLAR FARM OPPORTUNITIES

Solar Farms are a new diversification opportunity for farmers and landowners.   George Paton of WebbPaton states “We have seen a number of our clients being approached directly by solar farm developers wanting between 30 to 40 acres of land to install 5MW solar farms.   In each case where WebbPaton have been brought in we have seen the initial financial offers increase and have negotiated landowner friendly Heads of Terms for both the Option Agreement and the 25 year lease”.
 
WebbPaton are not linked with any of the solar developers unlike some of the national Land Agents.  We can therefore look at what the Client wants and then match them up with various different solar operators to achieve the best proposals.  We have found that some operators are offering to buy the land for up to 10 times itsagricultural value on obtaining planning permission.  Or alternatively they rentthe land on the following basis:
 
1) rent per acre index linked.
2) rent per megawatt installed index linked.
3) a large capital payment on installation followed by a lower annual rent index linked.
 
With a 5MW solar farm costing £12,500,000 to install financing is one of the biggest concerns, another is planning.  The demand for land for solar farms has increased due to the favourable 25 year Feed in Tarriff grant for solar installations”.
 
For more information please contact WebbPaton Renewables team  on 01793 842055

THINKING OF PLOUGHING UP GRASSLAND IN THE FUTURE? CHECK BEFORE YOU TAKE ACTION.

Under the latest CAP Reform proposals, there are plans to make farmers retain the amount of grassland which is more than five years old by 2014.  It is therefore inevitable that many farmers are considering ploughing up grassland wherever possible, to provide flexibility for the future.  But WebbPaton are warning their clients to think and take advice before ploughing…  Is an Environmental Impact Assessment needed?  Are there options under the Environmental Stewardship Scheme in place on the grassland?  Do you need your Landlord’s consent?  Farmers who breach the rules could face substantial penalties and may be required to re-instate the grassland at a considerable cost, but those who follow the process properly could be protecting their future flexibility if these proposals are put in place.

NVZ CHANGES

The NVZ boundaries will change with effect from 1st January 2013 and DEFRA has estimated that there will be approximately 6,800 fewer farms in NVZs from next year onwards.  There will also be some previously undesignated areas which will now fall within a NVZ area.  Therefore WebbPaton advises all farmers to check the new maps detailing the proposed changes on the Environment Agency website before the end of the year:
http://maps.environment-agency.gov.uk/wiyby/wiybyController?x=357683.0&y=355134.0&scale=1&layerGroups=default&ep=map&textonly=off&lang=_e&topic=nvz

CHANGES TO ENTRY LEVEL STEWARDSHIP (ELS)

Natural England will be making changes to all ELS agreements submitted from now onwards, with a start date on or after 1st January 2013.  A Fourth Edition ELS Handbook is due to be released any day, which outlines the changes to the scheme, which include lowering the points available for some of the more popular options and the introduction of some new options.  The reduction of points available highlights the need to take professional advice and guidance on the best options to suit your land, so that you can continue to claim the annual payment of £30/ha available under the Scheme.  Contact WebbPaton if you are interested in entering the ELS Scheme or if your agreement is due for renewal and we will advise you on how to claim this additional payment whilst minimising the impact on your farming activities.

PLANNING NEWS SWINDON DRAFT LOCAL PLAN

The Draft Local Swindon Plan Pre-Submission Draft is now available as a Cabinet paper pre-consultation and can be found at http://ww5.swindon.gov.uk/moderngov/mgConvert2Pdf.aspx?ID=10448&T=9.  Swindon’s Cabinet will be debating this on 16th October and any amendments will then be incorporated before the consultation begins.  WebbPaton acts for a number of farmers who are affected by this policy.  If you are interested in discussing the development potential of your land, contact  George Paton.

PLANNING NEW – WILTSHIRE CORE STRATEGY

Following submission of the Wiltshire Core Strategy, the Council are having to undertake further focussed consultation on:
  • the schedules of proposed changes;
  • the updated Sustainability Appraisal; and
  • the soundness of the submitted Core Strategy in the context of the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework and Planning policy for travellers, which were published after the Pre-Submission Document.
Further details, consultation documents and instructions on how to comment on this latest round of consultation can be2012 viewed on the Focussed Consultation webpage. Comments can be made anytime during the consultation period from now until 5pm on Thursday 1st November 2012. Contact WebbPaton if you would like us to prepare a response on your behalf or for expert development advice.

CAP REFORM UPDATE / ENTITLEMENT TRADING

A recent announcement from Dacian Ciolos (Agriculture Minister) has confirmed what WebbPaton had suspected – the European Commission are considering treating 2014 as a transitional year, using the current system, as the new system is unlikely to be ready.  European politicians have lodged over 7,000 amendments needed to the CAP Reform proposals and therefore progress is slow.  The deadline for the amendments to be negotiated and voted on is the end of November.  In light of the speculation over the current system continuing in 2014, the entitlements trading at WebbPaton has kicked off to a good start, with increasing demand for Single Payment entitlements – if you are looking for buy or sell entitlements, contact us for more information.

AUTUMN RENT REVIEWS

WebbPaton have negotiated a record number of rent reviews for tenants this Michaelmas.  Given this year’s poor weather conditions and low yields, it has provided the opportunity for some interesting and satisfactory negotiations with Landlord’s Agents.  If you have an outstanding rent review or you are about to commence negotiations for your Spring review, contact us for expert advice.

AMC MARGINS TUMBLING

AMC have been able to reduce the margin they charge on new loans four times in the past few weeks.  The general financial woes had seen the cost of wholesale money rise sharply leading to margins of around 5% over the 0.5% Bank of England Base Rate.  Margins for new loans are now generally back towards 2.5-3%, as usual depending on circumstances. Ring WebbPaton if you would like to discuss your situation.

CROSS COMPLIANCE

WebbPaton recently attended one of Defra’s Cross Compliance and Manure/Slurry Storage Update Events.  The message we took away from the event was that with the increasing demands from Cross Compliance, there are very few farmers who would not incur penalties following an RPA inspection.  The most common breaches of cross compliance are cattle identification and registration (SMR 7), sheep and goat identification (SMR 8), Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (SMR 4), animal welfare (SMR 18) and protection of hedgerows and watercourses (GAEC 14).   The Soil Protection Review (GAEC 1) is one of the simplest records to complete, but the RPA inspectors are still finding a number of farmers who have not completed the record.  The 2012 review will need to be completed at the end of this year.  If you have made ruts in the ground or accessed waterlogged land during the wet weather, these activities must be recorded in your 2012 review.
 
If you are using contractors or any other third parties to assist in field operations then it is important that you collect the relevant documentation to keep with your records, such as spraying, spreading of manure and exporting farm manure.
 
WebbPaton are offering a Cross Compliance Check Service, as it is clear from the recent round of inspections that it is well worth farmers investing some time and money in safeguarding their Single Payment.

KEMBLE TO SWINDON RAILWAY LINE

Network Rail’s Agents have been in contact with WebbPaton regarding the dualling of the Kemble to Swindon railway line.  If your land adjoins this section of the railway, please contact George Paton or Charlotte Pearson-Wood, we will be pleased to advise you on your compensation rights free of charge, as Network Rail will be required to cover our fees.

2013 SINGLE PAYMENT ENTITLEMENTS TRADING OPENS

Demand for Single Farm Payment Entitlements sour.  Trade for normal Non SDA Entitlements is currently between £200and £210 per hectare.   For assistance with acquiring entitlements telephone 01793 842055 and ask for Susan Elmes or George Paton.

ROSS COMPLIANCE CHECKS

The RPA inspectors are becoming more demanding than ever with the new SMR 4 (NVZ) checks in full force.  So far, the results of the SMR 4 (NVZ) checks show that many of the farmers inspected do not have any of the required NVZ records, which results in a penalty of up to 5% of your Single Payment. 
With this in mind, WebbPaton are offering a new cross compliance checking service, to help clients get up to speed with the records required.  Please contact Cathy Hancock-Angell or Gemma Drewett if you would like a Cross Compliance Check.

AGRICULTURAL RENT REVIEWS

Have you received a rent review notice or a proposal for an increase from your Landlord? Please contact Mark Webb for specialist advice on any tenancy issues. 
If you are an NFU Farmer and Grower Member, we offer a 12.5% discount on our fees.  If you also subscribe to the NFU’s Legal Assistance Scheme, it provides a £500 contribution towards professional advice required to prepare budgetary reports for assessing the rental value of a farm.

OXFORDSHIRE MAN JAILED FOR BURNING PLASTIC

An illegal waste operator has been jailed for 25 weeks for running two illegal waste sites, burning waste and allowing waste to enter the Cotswold Water Park.   Mr David Ham, 34, pleaded guilty at Oxford Magistrates’ Court for running the illegal waste operation at two sites, the Old Dairy, Dudgrove Lane, Whelford and Faringdon Business Park Chowle Farm, Faringdon.
 
The court heard (on Friday, 16 December) that Environment Agency officers visited the two sites on numerous occasions between February 2010 and March 2011 and told Mr Ham that he did not have the correct permits for the waste activities at the sites. The sites did not have environmental  permits or planning permission.
 
Environment Agency officers were first made aware of Mr Ham’s illegal activities at the Old Dairy, which borders Whelford Lakes in the Cotswold Water Park, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, on 2 February 2010, after several reports of burning waste. Officers attended the site on several occasions and found large piles of waste including paper, cardboard, wood, plastics, stone, soil and metals. A dumper truck, a grab lorry and a small 360 excavator fitted with a grab were also seen. Mr Ham was told to remove the waste and to stop operating immediately. However, on the 8 September the Environment Agency received reports of burning, and on attending the site an officer found evidence that waste was still being brought to the site and saw waste materials being burnt on a fire located inside the SSSI.
 
Mr Ham continued to ignore the warnings from the Environment Agency to stop his illegal waste activities, and on the 12 April 2010 the Environment Agency were alerted to a separate burning incident at Faringdon Business Park. On visiting the site it was apparent that Mr Ham was also operating illegally at this location. Officers visited the site on several occasions including routine visits and complaints of fires and burning. Throughout April to 2010 to March 2011 officers found a number of skips filled with construction and other waste including paper, paint cans, wood and a car battery. Large amounts of mixed wastes were also seen deposited on the ground. Numerous reports of fires at the site were received and the local fire service was called to attend on six occasions with one visit requiring seven units to attend the site.
 
Mr Ham continued to run both sites illegally for several months despite telling the Environment Agency that he had stopped. The waste that he burned at both the sites caused acrid smoke to billow across the roadway, the lake and the nearby park, subjecting users to the offensive smells and disturbance of their quiet enjoyment of the local amenities.
 
“People who permit or operate waste sites need to ensure they have an environmental permit in place to do so. In addition, skip operators who pick up skips containing controlled waste are under a statutory Duty of care under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to deliver the waste to a regulated site.

CAP REFORM LATEST TEXT

Latest text of the CAP Reform 2014 available here:register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/12/st17/st17383-re01.en12.pdf

POTENTIAL NEW PLANNING LAWS TO ENCOURAGE ONSHORE WIND FARMS

Government advisers say new regime may be needed for wind farms. The Coalition should consider new planning legislation to ensure national priorities on carbon reduction are translated into sufficient onshore wind farms, Government advisers have signalled. That’s the stance of the independent Committee on Climate Change which has published a review of the administration’s renewable energy aspirations.

The CCC has identified onshore wind schemes as one of the cheapest low-carbon options for meeting the UK’s carbon targets. The committee said that over six gigawatts of new onshore wind capacity could be added in the 2020s.

It stressed that planning approval rates for onshore wind have historically been low (i.e. under 50 per cent) and the period for approval long (e.g. almost two years) and suggested there was a case for central Government decisions to support the imperatives of its carbon budgets “possibly under new planning legislation that explicitly sets this out”. Further details can be found at http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/general/news/stories/2011/may11/12may11/120511_2

I meantime NPower are progressing a planning application on a 15 Megawatt wind farm on one of WebbPaton’s clients farms close to Milton Keynes. Further details on Orchard Way Wind Farm at Hill Farm, Haversham can be found atwww.rwe.com/web/cms/en/584696/rwe-npower-renewables/sites/projects-in-development/wind/orchard-way/the-proposal/

George Paton of WebbPaton would be happy to discuss any farm wind sites whether it is micro wind turbines or wind farms

WEBBPATON ADVISES CLIENTS ON STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT LAND PROMOTIONAL AGREEMENTS

WebbPaton have been busy in 2011  aiding owners of strategic potential development land around the edge of Swindon and the market towns of Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.  Despite the recession WebbPaton have been able to negotiate favourable terms for their farming clients with various builders and investors.    For more details speak to George Paton.

RENT REVIEWS WHAT SHOULD I BE PAYING

With rising arable prices and high commodity prices for livestock farmers Landlords agents are serving rent review notices.   To find out what rent you should ben paying contact  Mark Webb at WebbPaton.

FARM ENERGY PRODUCTION – NEW FEED IN TARIFF RATES

Thinking of using your farm property to produce solar, wind, hydro, biomass, or biogas electricity or been approached a energy farm developer?  There are two things you need to help you

1) Knowledge of the income potential from Feed in Tariffs and Electricty sales?  A very good  website explaining FITS can be found at http://www.fitariffs.co.uk/eligible/levels/

2) A good independent agent to help you with the agreements you sign.

WebbPaton have a great deal of recent experience with Energy Farms Contact George Paton.



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