New Chairman of CLA Hampshire branch: ‘For farming and the environment to thrive, Government and land managers must work together’

Robert Sutcliffe takes on one of the most important rural roles in the county
Robert Sutcliffe, CLA Hampshire branch committee chairman - landscapey.jpg
Robert Sutcliffe, the new Chairman of the CLA's Hampshire branch

The new Chairman of the Hampshire branch of the CLA, Robert Sutcliffe, has called for the Government and land managers to work together to help farming and the environment prosper.

Mr Sutcliffe replaced David Pardoe at a committee meeting today, in one of the most important rural roles in the county.

Following a decade serving in the Army, Mr Sutcliffe started a tree nursery in Hampshire growing native trees and shrubs. Over the course of 25 years, he built up considerable expertise in forestry and environmental management and became a member of the Royal Forestry Society.

In the 1990s he gradually took over the family farming enterprise north of Winchester. The arable crops then included oats grown for Jordans, rye for Ryvita and even an attempt at growing durum wheat for pasta. A herd of beef suckler cows has been a long-term feature, and this part of the business is now being expanded. A recent successful venture has been direct sales of beef to the public.

As the next generation begin to take over, the principles of regenerative agriculture are being adopted. Large areas of herbal leys and cover crops have been planted with a view to gradually increasing the permanent pasture.

In parallel with the farming, there are let cottages and offices along with other enterprises using re-purposed barns. To reduce carbon dioxide emissions and costs, a modest photovoltaic array was installed in 2012 and a biomass boiler and district heating system built in 2016.

Mr Sutcliffe said: “This is a time of significant change in both agriculture and estate management.

“My recent experience indicates that the procedures for procuring grants are far too complicated and bureaucratic. We need to develop a better system where the success of agriculture and the environment is a seen as a collaboration between Defra and land managers.”

Mr Sutcliffe also paid tribute to his predecessor: “David Pardoe did a superb job as chairman, maintaining a diverse range of expertise within the CLA Hampshire branch committee and getting the best out of all members. He also coped ably with the challenges of the Covid crisis, leading Zoom meetings with great skill and good humour. We look forward to his continued contribution on the committee.”

As Hampshire branch Chairman, Mr Sutcliffe will be representing hundreds of farmers, landowners and rural businesses across the county.

CLA South East Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “We wish to place on record our sincere thanks to David Pardoe for his tremendous work, ideas and enthusiasm over the course of his chairmanship.

“We are delighted to welcome Robert Sutcliffe into the role and look forward to working closely with him over the next few years.”

Outgoing Chairman Mr Pardoe said: “It has been a great privilege to be so involved in an organisation that rose so magnificently to the challenges of the last three years. To see at close hand the professionalism of the national and regional CLA teams in their political efforts and their advisory and pastoral work with the membership has been truly impressive.

“I hand over to Robert secure in the knowledge that he will be an excellent Chair and that he will enjoy his closer association with the CLA as much as I have.”

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