Director Joe Ridgeon says farmers and landowners must urgently consider their future if they are to secure their children’s and grandchildren’s inheritance.

So, what can be done to improve the future prospects for current and future generations in an agriculture sector at a crossroads? The key for landowners is thinking longer term. Those who might have lost out in potential development sites in the emerging Northumberland Plan, which is currently being examined, is to start thinking about the next review in in 2024, or even the next plan, which could be 10 – 15 years down the line.

The opportunity to have land allocated for residential development can be an attractive proposition, providing the possibility of long-term financial security. However, engaging with the planning system can be a potential minefield. So, it will be important to maximise success – and secure your inheritance.

There are undoubted opportunities for farmers to develop their plans, no matter what the scale of their site or the size of ambition. The key is to act right now, utilising the advice of a planning specialist, who understands the commercial drivers of developers and house builders, and will help you to explore the options and determine the best way forward.

If you are contemplating selling land for housing development, even if your site is not currently allocated, it may be appropriate to apply for planning permission. To boost the chances of success, early engagement in the local plan cycle along with the local planning authority, is essential. As planning inspectors are currently mandated to steer local plans through the system, you are unlikely to be successful with any speculative, un-evidenced or late proposals when the plan comes to public examination.

Therefore, in bringing forward a potential residential scheme, it’s important to consider some fundamental concepts under the current National Planning Policy Framework (2019):

  • A delivery test – councils must deliver on their housing requirements. Delivery is key and when promoting sites, applicants must show how a site is able to come forward and this must be backed up with appropriate evidence
  • Plans must be up to date – councils must review their local plans every five years, presenting an opportunity to further promote sites down the line if they come to the table late on in the planning cycle, or miss out on an allocation the first time of asking
  • Support for smaller sites as well as larger scale sites – it’s not just large land holdings that need to be strategically planned. Small and medium sized sites must also be considered by councils

There are undoubted opportunities for farmers to secure an inheritance for future generations through residential development of their land. The key to unlocking a brighter – and more profitable – future is to think differently, open your mind to new ideas, and have an expert by your side.