Working in an industry that is well-versed in dealing with change, I have some exciting personal news of my own to share. It is with great excitement and just a little trepidation that I announce I am expecting my first child in September. You will be pleased to hear that we have been working hard to ensure that when I go on maternity leave there will be a smooth transition and CLA members will still be able to expect the same high level of service we pride ourselves on.
I am delighted to announce that Nick Sandford will be Acting CLA East Regional Director during my period of maternity leave, taking a full time secondment from Sworders Property Consultants in Norfolk, where he is Director. Nick is a Chartered Surveyor with over thirty years’ experience of estate management and specialises in historic properties and all aspects of rural estates, including renewable energy, forestry, wildlife mitigation and habitat restoration and diversification schemes.
Nick has a long history working with the CLA and currently sits on the CLA Business and Rural Economy Committee and Norfolk Branch Committee, having previously chaired the Kent Branch Committee and was a Board member of the South East LEP before his move to Norfolk last year.
But before I go on maternity leave there are still many issues that I remain fully focused on, not least of which is our response and support to the continued challenges of Covid-19.
After intensive lobbying from the CLA, rural tourism businesses such as self-catering cottages, camping and glamping sites, and caravan parks, as well as the hospitality sector are now finally open for business again. The news has also been boosted by a cut in VAT from 20% to 5% for many of them – something the CLA has been consistently calling for over the last few months.
Farmers, landowners and rural businesses who have diversified into the tourism sector will be relieved that re-opening their businesses, albeit with social distancing and additional safety measures in place, is now possible.
We are delighted that the Government has listened to our plea to cut VAT to help the tourism and hospitality sector fight back from a devastating start to the year. Until now VAT on tourism businesses has been much higher than in other comparable countries* putting domestic tourism businesses at a competitive disadvantage to holiday providers overseas.
This welcome change from Government means more people will be able to afford to enjoy a holiday in the Great British countryside whilst also helping to revive rural economies across the country.
The next challenge will be to ensure we are able to stimulate demand not just in the short term, but through the less popular winter months too.
Businesses must comply with the Government’s Covid-19 guidelines and must have completed a risk assessment before they can reopen. The CLA has produced a series of guidelines to help its members meet the government’s conditions which include advice on operational procedures required of businesses under Covid-19, and how to complete a risk assessment with a template.
In other news, it was interesting to read the progress report from the Committee on Climate Change recently on reducing UK carbon emissions. The CLA is committed to helping the government reach the net-zero target by 2050. Through the Agriculture Bill, Environment Bill, Tree Strategy and Peatland Strategy there is a fantastic opportunity to transform the sector and the way we use our land to reduce emissions and increase sequestration.
Farmers and land managers are increasingly looking at what they can do to reduce emissions. Addressing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and using nature to sequester and store carbon, and provide renewable energy, has many benefits for climate, nature and the economy. But this needs clear and long-term polices, and funding for programmes, that will encourage farmers and landowners to change how they farm and their land use.
Many of our members are already doing a huge amount to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the CLA has produced a report with a series of infographics and other resources on climate change which is available on our website. The aim is to inform people of the facts and dispel the myths so that armed with the right information, farmers and landowners can demonstrate what they are doing to tackling the climate crisis.
For example, we know that 30% of agricultural emissions are associated with the production and application of nitrogen based fertilisers, but 50% of the world’s population could not be fed without nitrogen fertilisers.
Red meat receives a lot of bad press. However, methane is a short-lived gas, remaining in the atmosphere for around 12 years before breaking down. CO2 is a long-lived gas, which means that every tonne of CO2 ever emitted by fossil fuels is still in the atmosphere today, and will be for hundreds of years, continuing to cause warming.
Investing in agriculture, forestry and environment presents opportunities for economic growth, but it is vital that this is not undone by future trade agreements that do not drive global environmental standards.
*VAT on comparable businesses in France is 10%, Spain 10% and Greece 13%.