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Recommendations for the reform of the tenanted sector

View profile for Amy Clarkson
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More than half of the farmable land in England is farmed by tenants and as such, tenant farmers clearly play a crucial part in our food production and land management.

This has been recognised by a review that has recently been carried out by an independent Tenancy Working Group, to look at how new government schemes should be accessible to tenant farmers, as well as longer term changes to the agricultural tenanted sector. The review has been undertaken with a view to putting recommendations forward to the government to provide better support to tenant farmers, so that it can deliver its environmental targets, food security and growth of the rural economy.

The review wanted to address the following concerns affecting the tenanted sector:

  • improving the tenant-landlord relationship
  • ensuring the growth and viability of businesses in the tenanted sector
  • preventing tenant farmers from going bankrupt
  • minimising the loss of land from the tenanted sector
  • reducing scheme complexity and ensuring flexibility and access for tenants
  • public support for permanent land use changes including tree planting, and the creation of habitats

One of the main themes of the review is the importance of landlords and tenants having a more collaborative approach and some of the recommendations aim to improve the functionality of tenancies and to find ways to improve how landlords and tenants can work together, so that the relationship is seen as a mutually beneficial one.

Some of the immediate recommendations include:

  • All Environmental Land Management and productivity schemes must be accessible and open to tenant farmers. There should be a basic principle that tenants should not need landlord consent to enter land into these schemes and landlords should not be allowed to enter tenanted land into schemes unilaterally.
  • Tenants with Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 agreements should be allowed to enter multiannual schemes.
  • Defra should allow joint applications for productivity schemes, for fixed equipment and for woodland schemes.
  • Defra should provide incentives to improve the infrastructure on tenanted holdings.
  • Defra should develop a new entrants policy, to support private landlords to play their part in safeguarding the future tenanted sector and progression of new entrants.

Some of the longer-term recommendations include:

  • Defra should incentivise and provide advice on how landlords and tenants can collaborate.
  • Defra should consult on legislative changes to enable tenants to diversify their businesses without the landlord unreasonably refusing consent.
  • Defra should actively engage with the Law Commission to update legislation, so that it is brought up to date and so that it is fit for multiple demands being made on land.
  • A consultation on tenancy reform should take place in 2023.
  • Licences for land agents should be tightened to improve their performance and behaviour.
  • A tenant farmer commissioner should be appointed to “tenant-proof” future policies and to ensure fairness within the sector.
  • Tax changes should be made to encourage landlords to let more land for longer.

The government will now publish a formal response to the review.

If you have any queries regarding your own agricultural tenancy, or if you would like to discuss how the recommendations might affect your circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact a legal advisor in our Agricultural Team on 01653 600070.