£1 million party to celebrate Agincourt: Don’t take the budget too seriously

A few headline points for the rural economy from today’s budget, to add to the mainstream reporting:

  1. Deeds of variation for Inheritance Tax: a consultation is to report by Autumn.  It is therefore important to pursue any deeds of variation which may be needed straightaway, and to review wills to ensure that deeds of variation will not be required.  Their days may now be numbered.
  2. No more tax returns: sounds good, but will digital tax accounts be any better?
  3. Annual Investment Allowance.  It won’t come down from £500,000 to £25,000 after December this year.  We will be told in the Autumn statement what the new rate will be.  This timing is more appropriate, says Osborne.  Two months’ notice?  More appropriate? So much for a long term view on business investment needs.
  4. Compulsory Purchase Reform/Review: consultation now issued, responses by June this year.  First impression: more tinkering, much like the story of piecemeal reforms since the Land Compensation Act 1973.  Key points seem to include earlier payment of compensation (ahead of entry); better compensation; more encouragement to pay ‘over the odds’ to avoid other problems in the acquisition process; reconsideration of the ‘material detriment’ provisions.  There doesn’t seem to be much on blight, either statutory or discretionary and more generally on the interests of property owners and occupiers who lose no land but whose interests are badly affected by public development.
  5. Local Enterprise Partnerships and Forestry: who will LEPS be forced to marry next at the muzzle of a shotgun?  £1 million for for forestry schemes which are brought forward with LEP support – not one to hold your breath for.
  6. Rural broadband (an interesting concept): a universal service obligation of 5 Mbps everywhere may facilitate satellite access.  Details are far from clear, but vital to the successful delivery of this.
  7. Farmers’ profit averaging: the averaging period extended from two years to five year with effect from April 2016.  How will this work?  We don’t know yet: consultation is to follow.
  8. Flood Defence Relief: for expenditure against Income Tax or Corporation Tax – an interesting possibility to consider in the context of the development of ecosystem services.  For example Farmer A will manage his riverside fields to accept surplus water in order to protect Manufacturer B’s factory.  Will B be able to get tax relief for the money he pays to Farmer A for this purpose?
  9. Subletting within residential tenancies: needs thinking through but apparently tenants may be able to override restrictions in their leases.  Form an orderly queue ….
  10. CGT Entrepreneurs’ Relief: various loose ends to be tightened up.  An ideal headline for scaremongering but unlikely to be of concern to ‘genuine’ cases.

How seriously should we take all this?  Paddy Power are offering the following odds on the next government:

  • Labour minority 3/11
  • Conservative minority 7/2
  • Conservative majority 9/2
  • Labour SNP Coalition, and Conservative Lib Dem coalition 5/1

Whoever wins there will be another budget early in the new Parliament.  That’s really the one to watch for rather than today’s dying embers.  Let’s hope the big Agincourt party survives the general election – never mind the charisma of Henry IV’s speech (as Shakespeare would have it anyway) but do remember the skill and discipline of the English and Welsh archers.  Could this be George Osborne’s silent blow against UKIP?

Dissertation Time

Term starts at Harper Adams and the final year REALM (Rural Enterprise and Land Management) students have just returned from their placement years.  It’s always good to see them back from placement: confident after their year’s experience, appetites for learning refreshed and the maturity that comes from direct professional experience.

One of the early tasks for the students is to select a topic for their dissertation and find a tutor who is willing to supervise their project.  This is a very important piece of work as it counts for 25% of the final year, and must result in a highly coherent 10,000 word thesis if it is to be acceptable to the examiners.  It’s also an opportunity for a student to work with industry if suitable projects come forward for a piece of suitable research.  An industrial partner can help with access to data, case studies and the formulation of a relevant research question as well as costs of travel, surveys or other incidentals, even a sponsorship or bursary in some cases.

A well defined project with a good student can produce a report of real value to the sponsor, and in appropriate cases it is possible to ensure that the report is treated as confidential.  However these do need to be set up really carefully to ensure that the student will be able to achieve the best outcome against the academic requirements.

Topics of interest to the students who have already approached me have included water in agriculture, renewables on farms and professional fees for surveying services.

I have suggested a number of topics for students to consider and these include:

  • The RICS Designated Professional Body scheme for insurance intermediaries under the Financial Services Act: practitioner awareness and application
  • Why students choose to study at HAUC
  • Online learning as a form of CPD amongst rural practice chartered surveyors
  • Land manager perceptions of ecosystem services/payments for ecosystem services (PES)/legal and tenure aspects of layered and bundled PES
  • Short term farm business tenancies and their impact on soil quality and condition
  • Organisational change and development as continual revolution. The role of corporate memory and continuity in organisational stability in rural land management.
  • Deployment of social media in rural land management, levels of engagement by practitioners.
  • The reflection of risk and confidence in valuation reporting.

These are start points of course, and will need to be developed very carefully.

I have summarised the requirements in this way:

What we need at the end of this project, next April or May, is a finely polished and highly coherent 10,000 word research report which:
  • Sets out the area of interest (what and why) clearly in an introduction
  • Acquaints the reader with Your Analysis of all the relevant literature, concluding with the particular issue you are going to research
  • Sets out a viable method with a convincing justification including all ethical issues which might be raised, in the context of research methods as a whole
  • Presents some interesting and novel results from your actual research
  • Discusses these in the context of what we knew already (back to the lit review)
  • Draws out some conclusions and recommendations, preferably of a practical as well as academic nature.
  • Reflects on your own experience in undertaking the project.

If any readers feel they can help with a student dissertation then please do get in touch.

No future for rural chartered surveyors, valuers and estate managers?

The annual RICS Rural Land Conference takes place at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester on 21 June 2012.  Richard Benyon, Defra minister for environment and fisheries is due to open the conference.  Speakers from our leading rural surveying and legal firms, government, CLA, Andersons Consulting, and the RICS rural partner universities will address a range of topics including CAP reform, tree safety, rural housing and the Localism Act, policy and legal updates.  There’s a link to the conference details and booking arrangements at the end of this post.

I have been asked to speak about future challenges facing RICS rural members, and I would like to ask for your help.  Please could you complete the poll below and offer me a comment or two on what you see as key factors in shaping demand from our clients over the next ten years.

At the time of the last CAP reforms I prepared a paper for RICS on the subject of rural scenario planning, in which we categorised the countryside into: Primary Production Countryside (farming for food and fibre, forestry, minerals); entrepreneurial countryside (the web of mainly small businesses which comprise the rural economy) and what we called ‘Stakeholder Countryside’.

The significance of these categories was that each demanded a different set of skills, and exemplifed a different generic strategy.  Primary production for example focussed on cost leadership and attention to technical detail; whereas Stakeholder Countryside had a strong ‘differentiation’ focus in order to mark the differences from other initiative in search of competitive funding.  This helfpully enabled us to structure our thinking about the future calls on members of our profession at a strategic level – even if the concept did seem somewhat esoteric at the time to many practitioners understandly committed to their day to day client requirements.

Since then we have also seen the increasing recognition of, and emphasis upon, the role of ecosystem services and their valuation.  In my view this has profound implications for the future work of rural surveyors and valuers, and is the subject of a separate ‘Think Piece’ on which I am currently working for RICS.  This link to a recent RICS Land Blog gives a little more idea of this.  The conference will be an opportunity for a preview of this work.

But what other key political, economic, social, technical developments will shape the requirement for rural professional services over the next 10 years or so, and will this be  good news or not for land agents and rural valuers?  Clearly much will depend on how we embrace the new possibilities and in responding to this question some may fall back too easily on a tweedy, innately conservative stereotype of the traditional land agent and agricultural valuer.  But this is too lazy a response.  This is after all the profession which has supported farming through successive CAP reforms from the introduction of milk quota transfer services in the 1980’s, to all the requirements associated with entitlement for the Single Farm Payment in the 2000’s.

So I would like to ask you to respond to this poll about the future outlook for land agents’ and rural valuers’ services.

Please also feel free to tweet me (@charlescowap) or to use the comment facility to share your views on this important question as well.

Thank you.

Link to Conference Programme and Booking Form.

Nature Improvement Areas: £384,000 wasted

Twelve new Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) today learn that they will share £7.5 million of Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) funding over the next three years.  The scheme only applies to England but already Stuart Housden, RSPB Director for Scotland has welcomed the scheme on twitter (@StuartHousden: This is an idea the rest of the UK should consider: focussed action works, twitter, 27.2.2012).  Congratulations to the successful 12; commiserations to the other 64 and in particular to Big Chalk, Hampshire Farmers and Lee Catchment who made it to the final final 15 but weren’t in the eventual winning line-up.

But at what cost and to what benefit?

  • It’s likely that the total cost of the 76 initial applications to the consortiums that put them together was in the order of £456,000. (Chasing £7.5 million funding remember)
  • So the successful 12 bids accounted for c. £72,000 of this, while the remaining unsuccessful bids cost a total of £384,000.  It’s to be hoped that some other benefits will result from the abortive work!
  • NIA’s are a flagship policy of the Natural Environment White Paper published last year, so they seem to be important.
  • Although it’s not easy to gauge, the total area covered by the 12 successful bids seems to be in the order of 63,880 hectares (about 158,000 acres).
  • That’s less than one half of one percent of England’s land area of about 130,400 sq km.
  • Put that another way: 99+% of England is not covered by a ‘Flagship Policy’.  This flagship policy ‘may’ be recognised in planning policy – but is an extension of planning policy, not a new policy according to Defra.
  • And comes at a cost of about £117/hectare (but offset against this the wasted expenditure on failed bids of £6 per successful hectare).
  • Scaling this up to half England’s land area (reasonable for a ‘flagship policy’?) would imply a cost of £750 million.

Sir John Lawton, chair of the judging panel, commented on the difficulties facing the selectors:

“Never in all that time [40 years – Sir John’s career in the environment] have I seen the sort of creativity, partnership working and sheer enthusiasm that the NIA has released on consortia that want to deliver more effective conservation for England’s wonderful wildlife in their area.  Choosing 12 winners from 76 bids was an awfully difficult task ….”

So let’s hope the deflation of the losers doesn’t come at too great a cost to all that creativity and sheer enthusiasm.  But it has come at a cost to ‘Big Society’ because for every winner there have been 5 losers.  Their wasted expenditure consists at least in part of volunteer time, charity time, member organisation time and inputs by various government and quasi-government agencies.  But not, officially at least, government funding – so the cost hasn’t fallen on we poor taxpayers.  But then it has, hasn’t it, because of the subscriptions we have paid to various organisations involved and the time our fellows have given voluntarily to this process?  So what value for money in the Big Society here, Caroline Spelman and David Cameron?

The Devilish Details:

  • The NIA scheme opened for bids last July.  Seventy-six initial bids were initially whittled down to 20 applications which went through to a second stage.  Of these 20, 15 were interviewed for the final cut of 12 successful applications (see links below for further details).
  • Defra plans to spend £7.5 million on the NIA scheme from 2012 to 2015.
  • At about 63,880 ha (author’s estimate from Natural England press release – link below), this equates to £117/ha (£47/acre).
  • The total area of England is about 130,400 sq km (and 1 sq km = 100 ha), so the NIA’s cover 4.8% of England.
  • The estimate for the cost of the NIA bids was worked up by assuming 30 working days per bid at a daily cost of £200, ie £6,000 per bid x 76 bids = £456,000. Even at 20 days at the National Minimum Wage (+20% for employer overheads) the cost per bid would be nearly £1,200. (author’s own estimates).  In reality, £6,000 is probably a very conservative estimate if all the time was carefully recorded and costed.

Learn more (links):

Defra announcement

Natural England announcement, including links to each successful NIA

Natural England NIA information page

Natural England Map of 15 short-listed areas

Defra Natural Environment White Paper

Final shortlist of 15 (successful 12 in bold):

Big Chalk

Birmingham and Black Country

Dark Peak

Dearne Valley

Hampshire Farmers

Greater Thames Marshes (airport permitting?)

Humberhead Levels

Lee Catchment

Marlborough Downs (farmer led)

Marches Meres and Mosses

Morecambe Bay

Nene Valley

North Devon

South Downs Way

Wild Purbeck

See link above for more information about each of the successful bids.

#AS2011: Rural aspects of the Government’s Autumn Statement on the economy

The price of energy and agricultural commodities featured early in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement to Parliament today.  They share the blame for the UK’s economic slowdown in the last 18 months.

But these were not the only rural interests in the Autumn Statement.  Some detailed proposals which did not command the headlines include:

  • Rural Broadband: £20 million Rural Broadband Community Fund for superfast broadband to rural homes and businesses.  This will be supported by pilot work in North Yorkshire.
  • £15 million for up to six pilot Rural Growth Networks.  These will demonstrate how local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships can work with the planning regime and targeted infrastructure investment to support rural growth.  Of this, £2 million over 3 years is aimed at rural enterprises led by women, particularly those in the Rural Growth Networks.
  • Organic farmers may be exempted from regulations controlling the use of nitrate-based fertilisers – consultations are to follow
  • Red Tractor and other certification schemes will reduce the inspection and compliance burden on farm businesses
  • £100 million of RDPE funding to help small businesses with skills, facilities and competitiveness
  • £25 million to promote rural tourism, including £10 million within RDPE to develop rural tourist destinations
  • A Food and Drink Export Action Plan – a summit will be held in March 2012 to boost innovation in small agri-food businesses
  • £15 million Rural Community Renewable Energy Fund will help communities with the upfront cost of renewables projects
  • Forestry Commission, England, to offer 45 training opportunities for new Forestry Apprentices, working with private companies
  • £80 million investment for new facilities at the Institute of Animal Health (the infamous Pirbright laboratories)

The Autumn Statement also contains broader implications for the rural economy.  This list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Fuel price increases of 3p/litre due in January now deferred until August, with August’s further increase scrapped
  • Tax relief for investment in new business: Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) from April 2012 will allow 50% Income Tax Relief for new business investment and CGT exemption for gains reinvested through SEIS in the same year.
  • Extension of Business Rates Relief
  • Corporation Tax to be down to 23% by 2014
  • Infrastructure Investment: An additional £5 billion of spending on infrastructure.  The National Infrastructure Plan has been updated.
  • Pension funds will further bolster infrastructure investment through an Insurers’ Infrastructure Investment Forum.  This could release a further £20 billion for infrastructure investment.
  • New Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, chaired by the Treasury Chief Secretary, to monitor the delivery of 40 infrastructure projects most critical to growth.
  • Proposed changes to the Infrastructure Planning Regime by mid-2012 will reduce the burden of pre-application work – this threatens to undermine the enormous emphasis put on this vital preparatory stage by the Infrastructure Planning Commission in its short life
  • Other planning reforms should also mean an easier run for development proposals: a remit for key consenting and advisory agencies to promote sustainable development; a 13 week maximum timescale for most non-planning consents; easier claims for costs against statutory consultees who have prompted a refusal of planning permission later overturned on appeal; a review of the Habitats and Wild Birds Directive to ensure it does not cause unnecessary costs and delays.
  • The downside of all these planning changes may be a reluctance on the part of agencies to promote robust objections, poorer preparation of major development proposals and weaker protection for important habitats and species
  • Look out too, for consultations on proposals which will make it easier to convert agricultural buildings to office, leisure and retail space.
  • Business Finance Partnership to provide £1 billion outside the banking network for investment in smaller businesses.
  • National Loan Guarantee Scheme to guarantee bank funding for smaller businesses over two years.
  • HE Global, a new online information and advice portal for Higher Education wishing to expand abroad – this is intended to bring government, universities and industry expertise together to promote educational exports.  Given our world-leading food expertise, this may be an indirect way to promote food and rural businesses to a global audience
  • Numerous housing measures, not least improved discounts on the Right to Buy social housing and a commitment to reinvest the proceeds in new social housing.  But this will benefit rural areas?
  • Changes to health and safety provisions will exempt self-employed people who pose no risk to others from H&S requirements, as well as simplifying guidance, more consistent application between local authorities, limitation of accountability to risks that can realistically be managed and a stronger message to the EU on the importance of a risk- and evidence-based approach
  • The establishment of a Data Strategy Board to maximise value from Met Office, Ordnance Survey, Land Registry and Companies House data, to provide a free range of core reference datasets, may help effective rural land management

More generally, rural skills development may be able to benefit from:

  • £250 million pilot fund to enable business to design, develop and purchase the vocational training programmes it needs
  • Improvement to apprenticeship programmes with reduction in red tape
  • Kite-marking of courses that employers value by the science, technology, engineering and maths sector skills councils
  • Numerous measures may make it easier to employ and dismiss workers

And Look Out For:

  • 6 December: further tax announcements although we already know that the CGT exempt amount is frozen at £10,600 for 2012-13
  • December: PM to set out the government’s strategy for ensuring the UK is the best location for translational research science in the life sciences.  In particular this will support the work of universities, NHS, private investors and businesses.  Will food and the rural contribution to human health get a look-in?
  • New permitted development rights for non-domestic micro-generation of electricity
  • A review of the impact of the freshwater legislative framework

For more details see the Autumn Statement 2011 itself.  Foll0w this link for details of DEFRA’s Rural Economy Growth Review, also published on 29 November.

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): Links and resources

The following links provide helpful information on the current CAP proposals:

European Commission (the Horse’s Mouth): http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/cap-post-2013/index_en.htm

DEFRA (how UK sees it): http://www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/farm-manage/cap-reform/

EBLEX Euro News site (how a levy board sees it): http://www.eblex.org.uk/news/euro.aspx

EBLEX CAP briefing: http://www.eblex.org.uk/documents/content/news/n_eu_cap-eblex141011.pdf

NFU notes (speaking up for farmers): http://www.nfuonline.com/our-work/economics/cap/

CLA notes (speaking up for landowners): httup://www.cla.org.uk/Policy_Work/CAP_Reform/

TFA notes (the tenant perspective – this link is to TFA general press releases): http://www.tfa.org.uk/news.aspxe

House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee (reviewing the Greening of the CAP): http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environment-food-and-rural-affairs-committee/news/cap-follow-up/

RICS comment (aimed at rural valuers, land agents and professional advisers): http://www.rics.org/site/scripts/download_info.aspx?downloadID=8033&fileID=10817

Jeremy Moody, National Adviser to CAAV (Agricultural Valuers) on youtube, speaking at Harper Adams: Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEsUOybTek8&noredirect=1ns

And Part Two, on CAP greening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tXHPTQwZvI

RSPB: Its farming blog contains reactions to the CAP proposals (a bird’s eye view): http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/farming/b/farming-blog/archive/2011/10/06/watch-this-space-cap-reform-proposals-are-on-their-way.aspx

Woodland Trust (the view from the trees): http://wtcampaigns.wordpress.com/category/policy/agriculture/

Professional analysis for RICS by Dr James Jones: http://rac.ac.uk/research-consultancy/research-publications/rics-cap-reform-briefing-papers-by-james-jones

Reform pressure group view (independent academics, researchers and NGO activists who firmly believe CAP needs fundamental reform): http://capreform.eu/

Sean Rickard, independent economist and former NFU Chief Economist, argues the need for radical reform to free progressive farming from the CAP’s shackles in this pamphlet, ‘Liberating farming from the CAP’, published by the Institue of Economic Affairs in February 2012.(Added March 2012)

European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Birdlife International.  EEB is a a federation of over 140 environmental citizens’ organisations based in all 27 European Union’s Member States and this youtube video sets out their view on why we need a greener CAP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP5xah72YDI See also the EEB website: www.eeb.org, and their factsheet in support of the video: http://www.eeb.org/EEB/?LinkServID=B79ED8BF-D221-2696-3743329F2660DCFE

COPA-COGECA (European Farmers and Farm Cooperatives federation) reaction to CAP 2013 proposals.  A pan-European response from farming organisations: http://www.copa-cogeca.be/img/user/file/7142_PAC_E.pdf

Concord Europe (a European Federation of NGOs – Non Government Organisations – for Relief and Development) joint statement with several other civil society organisations and interest groups: http://www.concordeurope.org/Files/media/0_internetdocumentsENG/5_Press/Position-studies/2011_03_07–Statement-on-CAP_-CONCORD_Via-Campesina.pdf

UK Parliament debate on CAP Reform, 8 March 2012: http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2012/march/mps-debate-common-agricultural-policy/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogminster2010+%28Blogminster+-+MP+news+and+blogs+from+around+Westminster%29 includes a video of the debate and the Hansard report at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201212/cmhansrd/cm120308/halltext/120308h0001.htm#12030884000001

OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) view: http://www.oecd.org/document/23/0,3746,en_2649_37401_48761687_1_1_1_37401,00.html.  Basically: “High commodity prices have made European farmers much less dependent on income support, offering cash-strapped governments a unique opportunity to reform the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), according to a new OECD report.”

Two useful Twitter hashtags: #CAP and #CAPReform.

Happy Reading.  Please do suggest other good sites which should be added to this list.

[Last updated 16 March 2012]

Atkinson case: Inheritance Tax Agricultural Property Appeal Report published

The Upper Tribunal (Tax and Chancery) has now published its report on the Atkinson case, mentioned briefly here at the end of last week. 

The case hinged around the question of whether the late Mr Atkinson’s bungalow had been ‘occupied for the purposes of agriculture’, as required by s117 of the Inheritance Tax Act in the seven years required before his death.  From the case report it is clear that Mr Atkinson acquired Abbotson Farm near Kirkby Lonsdale in Lancashire in 1957, a holding of 195 acres.  By the time of his death, the farming was undertaken by a partnership consisting of Mr Atkinson himself, his son, daughter-in-law and grandson.  The partnership had a tenancy of the holding from Mr Atkinson himself, and it was accepted that the tenancy was a partnership asset.

Sadly in 2002 Mr Atkinson became very ill and after a short stay in hospital he went to live in a care home.  He died on 20 October 2006.  His bungalow was by this time a part of the tenancy agreement, and the partnership maintained the bungalow as Mr Atkinson had last lived in it.  His furniture and possessions stayed there, and two of the partners visited the property every week to look after it, collect post and so on.  Exemption from Council Tax was however claimed, on the grounds that the bungalow was no longer occupied.

Section 117 of the Inheritance Tax Act means that ‘agricultural property’ must be ‘occupied for the purposes of agriculture’ in a stated period before death.  The period is only two years in the case of owner-occupied property, or where there is a right to possession within a short time; but it is seven years in the case of let property.  The seven year requirement applied here.  The benefit of a successful claim for Agricultural Property Relief is that 50% or 100% relief can be claimed on the Agricultural Value of the asset in the deceased’s estate on death.  The saving in IHT is therefore substantial on an estate which is otherwise taxed at the 40% death rate of IHT, even where the agricultural value of the asset concerned may be less than its market value.

The purpose of the Upper Tribunal is to deal with appeals against the decisions of the First Tier Tax Tribunal.  The lower Tribunal had previously decided in favour of the executors’ claim that the bungalow was indeed occupied, by the partnership, for the purposes of agriculture.  In reviewing this decision the Upper Tribunal has come to the opposite conclusion.  In particular it has highlighted:

  • The need to find an objective connection between the occupation of the bungalow and relevant agricultural activities;
  • Relevant agricultural activity can be considered broadly, eg a book-keeper employed in a farm business can be regarded as engaged in agricultural activity;
  • Vacating a property does not necessarily mean it is no longer occupied.  Various possibilities are reviewed: the occupier away on holiday; the family of a retired or deceased worker; accommodation awaiting the arrival of a new employee; the empty farm building following a change of enterprise.

The lower tribunal had regarded the partnership’s occupation under the tenancy as important, but the upper tribunal was dismissive of this view – it had been Mr Atkinson who was in occupation.  Their conclusion was that he ceased to occupy the bungalow for the purposes of agriculture when he moved to the care home with no reasonable prospect of ever returning home, even assuming that he continued to play a significant role in the partnership after that time.

In reviewing the lower decision the Upper Tribunal has accepted that Mr Atkinson continued to occupy the bungalow, but not as a dwelling and not for the purposes of agriculture.  The correct approach is to look at the questions of occupation and the purposes of agriculture together as two linked questions.  In the words of the judgment:

“The correct approach is to identify what does and what does not amount to a sufficient connection between the use and occupation of the property … and the agricultural activities being carried out on the agricultural property …; and to ask whether the facts give rise to a sufficient connection.”

The facts in this case did not establish a sufficient connection: the bungalow had not been occupied for the purposes of agriculture since it had become clear that Mr Atkinson would never return there to live, despite the occasional attendance of two of the partners in the business and the fact that his belongings and furniture remained in the bungalow.

Finally it should be added that the respondent executors chose not be represented in this appeal because of understandable concerns over costs.  The two judges who dealt with the case do however, seem to have gone to particular trouble to consider a submission made on their behalf in arriving at their judgment.  There is now a short period in which the decision can be subject to a further appeal, but this now seems unlikely.

The case report itself can be seen here, and the comments above are entirely based on that report.   The Upper Tribunal does not appear to have finalised the case reference yet, as it appears at [2011]UTUK xxx (TCC).