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Letter: Developers Plough Their Money Into Farmland to Harvest Huge Profits

Published on: 3 Nov, 2020
Updated on: 3 Nov, 2020

From: Ben Paton

In response to: In Times of Food Shortage, Building on the Land That Feeds Us Seems Unwise

If we look specifically at the Guildford Local Plan rather than aggregate national statistics, we see most of the new housing is planned to go onto agricultural land.

First and foremost, Gosden Hill Farm at Burpham, Three Farms Meadow in Ockham and Blackwell Farm at the Hog’s Back are obviously agricultural.

Green belt covers all manner of land. The designation is to stop urban sprawl. Other rules in the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] are supposed to protect farmland, such as the Best and Most Versatile Farmland provisions.

There are two issues: 1) The discretion allowed to local authorities to interpret the rules and 2) The massive amounts of money at stake.

Local authority discretion is so wide they can do almost anything provided they tick all the boxes in the prescribed legal process.

Three Farms Meadow was bought by the WIPL for £7 million. The Guildford Local Plan proposes 2,000 houses on the site. That’s £3,500 per dwelling.

The average price of a dwelling when sold will probably be about £350,000. That’s a 100% increase in value before development costs.

No wonder developers are so keen to buy farms.

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test 8 Responses to Letter: Developers Plough Their Money Into Farmland to Harvest Huge Profits

  1. John Perkins Reply

    November 3, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    Better still, they can buy another nearby farm, have it redesignated as SANG (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace), plonk a footpath, car park and bike rack on it, and avoid paying millions in SANG fees.

  2. Valerie Thompson Reply

    November 4, 2020 at 9:16 am

    Or buy a piece of land, not even in the village that’s being developed and call it a SANG. Look at the appalling desecration with parking etc, on Long Reach, West Horsley, designated a SANG to offset land being built on in Effingham. As if Effingham doesn’t have common and woodland of its own, together with nearby the Wisley area and the downs to use for exercise.

    It would be interesting to do a survey of visitors to this bleak patch to find out where they have come from, that is, if anyone uses it at all.

  3. Lisa Wright Reply

    November 4, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    As we leave Europe on January 1st, would we then be in a position to ‘do away’ with the necessity of SANGs and revert those pieces of farmland back to productive crop growing and animal raising?

    • John Perkins Reply

      November 6, 2020 at 9:42 am

      That’s a very interesting question.

      Rules for the definition of Special Protection Areas and how to protect them came from the UK, so are unlikely to change. When the EU adopted them they added a requirement for a government body to specify and oversee the method of applying the protection. That led to the replacement of English Nature by the quango Natural England, which then came up with the absurd idea of SANGs.

      When the Brexit transition period ends at the end of the year, the UK will no longer be bound by EU laws and so theoretically could abolish Natural England and all its works.

  4. Peter Elliott Reply

    November 6, 2020 at 10:10 am

    Good idea! On this subject, it has been estimated that the land proposed for development at Blackwell Farm alone, is capable of producing enough wheat for 2.4 million loaves of bread.

  5. Martin Elliott Reply

    November 6, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    Can someone explain to me, why Europe and America were overproducing agricultural products over the past few decades?

    I thought that was why the economic control of ‘set-aside’ was brought in.

    Even now, although the political reason has changed to protecting wildlife and nature rather than preventing over production, there are set-aside schemes still in place.

  6. Jim Allen Reply

    November 6, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    Currently, the last draft plan for a Sang is for Weyside ‘urban’ village [that’s SARP to those long in the toof] is for the active flood plain between Burpham and Jacobs Well with two crossings across Clay Lane one on a bad bend, and no provision for car parking, save in Bowers Lane, because they can’t put a car park in the green belt.

    It seems the behaviour of civil servants, as portrayed in “Yes Minister”, continues to be displayed by town planners.

  7. Peter Elliott Reply

    November 7, 2020 at 11:15 am

    I’d like to make it clear that my ‘good idea’ comment was in response to Lisa Wright’s suggestion about SANG’s. Martin Elliott’s letter about doing away with Natural England altogether hadn’t been published at that time, and it’s not something I feel qualified to comment on.

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