The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) which represents 30,000 landowners, has welcomed the opportunity to provide input on modernising and improving agricultural tenancy legislation in England and Wales, but raised questions on the timing of the consultations.
Defra and the Welsh Government have launched two concurrent 12 week consultations to seek views around the proposals to improving productivity and facilitating structural change in the tenant farming sector. The consultations also seek views on potential changes for agricultural mortgage restrictions and repossessions.
CLA Deputy President Mark Bridgeman said: “Given the vital work still to be completed on productivity, payment for public goods, the introduction of environmental markets, climate change, and in Wales the future Agricultural Land Tribunal, which will all impact on the future of farm tenancies, now seems an ill-advised time to be looking at new legislation in this space.
“The proposals do outline some positive steps for AHA tenancies, including making it easier for landlords to invest in opportunities to improve productivity through the provision of infrastructure, more flexibility around a tenant’s retirement and a greater say for landlords in the suitability test for successors.
“However, we also have concerns around the proposals for assignment provisions and enlarging the pool of eligible successors, which seem to be about extending the application of AHA regulation, rather than delivering any defined productivity gains. Furthermore, there is currently insufficient supporting guidance on when it would be appropriate to adjust tenancy restrictions and the impact that it may have on the balance of interests between landlords and tenants.
“With regard to FBT tenancies, we welcome the provisions for dealing with the problems of breaches of agreement, but believe these should apply for any tenancy over two years, rather than the 10 year figure as proposed.”
The consultations also propose working up case-studies, guidance and sign-posting to best practice to support any future legislation, which the CLA has also welcomed.
Bridgeman added: “As with all tenancy reform issues there is a danger of inadvertently damaging relationships, therefore we are pleased Defra and the Welsh Government have both committed to working constructively with all parties to improve the non-legislative guidance to support a strong landlord and tenant relationship which will build productivity going forward.”