With grain prices heading towards £300/t, many people outside agriculture could be forgiven for thinking its happy days for arable farmers.
But prices aren’t the only thing going up – so too are input costs. As I write, red diesel is more than 70p/litre and nitrogen is heading towards £700/t. These are crazy prices and show little sign of easing soon. In fact, input costs are so high that I wonder are we actually any better off?
As ever, diversification is still an important breadwinner on many farms. One crop that still outperforms all others is bricks and mortar. Farmland in or close to local villages make useful residential development sites.
If local planning rules restrict your progress then a different way forward might be a Community Land Trust (CLT). They provide local housing for local people and the planning system is often more sympathetic to granting permission.
Some land may be classified as a rural exception site. These are small sites that would not normally be used for housing but can be used for affordable housing – and with it cheaper rents, part-rent, part-mortgage agreements and discounted sale prices.
Villages can set up their own CLT. These are non elected people who take it upon themselves to offer their services for the better of their community or village. They have a call for land and consider all applications on a fair basis.
Landowners submitting land forward should not expect building land prices but should be prepared to commit to helping and giving back to the community. All good so far but not all experiences with local CLTs have turned out perfect.
A recent submission of two parcels of land by a local farmer to a CLT in a small village near me has caused much upset and unrest. The landowner assumed that the self-elected CLT trustees would consider his submission of land favourably and his desire to give back to the village positively.
But underhand tactics by some trustees and local councillors have made the experience one of bitter recriminations. Needless to say, the CLT and chairman of the local parish council reached a decision without consulting local residents.
The result was that the CLT was shot down in flames, forcing resignations and leaving the local village with no CLT and no affordable local housing. The landowner assumed the process would have been fair and transparent – but it was sadly not the case.
To make matters worse, the local landowner got the blame for the whole sorry state of affairs. Despite trying to do his best for the local community, he found his motives questioned by people who really should have known better.
Facing accusations he was trying to make a quick profit, the landowner complained to the local council – only to find his complaint rejected. It seems that the sleaze and corruption engulfing the government nationally has filtered down to local councils.
Like the country, the village is finding it hard to unite and the arguments are ongoing. Despite the long-held assumption that all things are fair in local politics, it is clear that some local councils and local councillors often pursue their own agenda.
My advice is beware of the pitfalls when offering any land to a CLT. The intention to provide local people with local houses at affordable prices might not always be at the top of the agenda. And the process is sometimes not what it should be.
What are your thoughts?
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