Tuesday, August 20, 2019

No endgame in sight for farm Brexit

March 5, 2019 by  
Filed under News & Business

Uncertainty over the impact of Brexit on agriculture will continue for some time to come, says James Whilding.

Farming experts have been debating for months the impact of the government’s Agriculture Bill on the industry as it prepares for life outside the European Union. More recently, talk has intensified regarding the potential effects of a no-deal Brexit  and trade tariffs on farming fortunes.

Farmers are a resilient bunch. And in terms of planning and development, rural activity has been a matter of “business as usual” with landowners and tenants continuing to utilise extended permitted development rights and supportive planning policies to upgrade farm buildings and diversify.

These are uncertain times. But farming is not alone. Other industries also face an unknown future.

Mixed outlook

For UK construction, the current impact on delivery is somewhat mixed. The Financial Times recently reported that business activity in the sector had “slowed to its weakest level in 10 months” with employment growth at its lowest level since July 2016.

Lack of skilled labour and a downturn in house price growth are affecting the delivery of new housing. But with inflation and interest rates at low levels, the potential impacts forecast by Bank of England governor Mark Carney may not come to fruition. 

Of significance moving forward will be the environmental assessment of development projects and policies which have been an important EU law influence on planning in the UK.

If an eventual decision sees the UK remain a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), compliance with EU law regarding Environmental Impact Assessment and the Habitats Directive, for example, will continue.

Air and water

But such directives will have no influence on UK law if we end up outside of such regimes. This is particularly relevant for farmers considering larger developments. These include intensive pig and poultry production, and follows a recent government focus on air and water quality.    

The impact of Brexit on national and local planning policies is thus difficult to assess. But given that environmental impact and habitat protection are already key considerations for the government, any changes may be slight unless legislation is repealed or amended.

James Whilding is a director at chartered surveyors and planning consultants Acorus Rural Property Services. For details, visit www.acorus.co.uk.