Reflecting on a busy year of CLA advice - and lots going on in 2024

CLA South East rural adviser Lucy Charman blogs on the key themes and topics members have been raising with our experts
Access is among the key issues raised by members with the CLA advice service - a core benefit of your membership.

Prior to the South East team enjoying the festive break, we made time for a debrief on some of the highlights of 2023.

In among the memories of insightful member visits, brilliant social and technical events, informative training sessions and countless stakeholder meetings, we enjoyed talking to hundreds of members across the year and answering a vast range of advice requests.

CLA members seeking advice on any subject can contact their regional office, and depending on the request, it may be dealt with either by the regional team or our colleagues in London.

In 2023, advice relating to legal issues was the most common topic area we dealt with, easy to see why as this can include access, civil or commercial disputes, policing matters like fly-tipping or firearms, landownership, and landlord and tenant matters to name just a few.

As expected, the runner-up was planning-related enquiries. 2023 saw a number of changes to planning policy and heralded some additional regulatory requirements with the announcements of statutory biodiversity net gain (still to be implemented) and nutrient mitigation. Permitted development rights are always a key focus of advice and lobbying, with many members wanting to understand what can and can't be done.

Tax was a close third place. All areas of tax advice are dealt with by the expert team in London and topics include VAT, inheritance tax, capital gains and stamp duty land tax. A call to one of the team can prove invaluable, especially when members are considering a diversification project.

Front of mind for many, especially at the start of a new year, is thinking about the next generation and early conversations with the tax team to ensure the best outcome is essential - make use of your membership!

Plenty on the horizon in 2024

It would be remiss of me to stop at the top 3, without mentioning the fourth most popular topic, which is classified under the title of environment and land use. 2024 sees the launch of delinked BPS payments and this, alongside all of the ELM schemes, in addition to Countryside Stewardship, forestry, natural capital, water and nature conservation falls under this heading.

Member feedback, observations and experiences are really important to relay to Defra while these schemes continue to evolve, and many members seek advice as to what they may be eligible for and what might suit them best.

We have just had some announcements relating to new SFI 2024 actions and there are a number of other grants currently open - like the Improving Farm Productivity Grant - which will pay for capital items for robotic and automated equipment, or the installation of solar equipment.

The new year brings renewed motivation to the South East advisory team, as Rosie Salt-Crockford and I seek to increase the number of members that we speak to across the region across the year.

There is lots going on, with every county in the process of creating a Local Nature Recovery Strategy, many planning authorities revising their local plans, a potential change in government and the ever-evolving ELM offer to name just a few.

If you have any questions, no matter how quick or detailed, please do get in touch.

Sign-up for our advice webinar

We will be hosting an "ask the adviser" webinar on 23 January, an informal session with a brief update from us, followed by an open forum for discussion or questions. If it is popular (and deemed useful) we will look to turn it into a regular feature.

Key contact:

Lucy Charman Rural Adviser, CLA South East