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Stackyard News Mar 08

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    Trends in Agricultural Tenure in England and Wales 1990-2007

As a means of making more agricultural land to be available for rent and to formalise a wide range of informal tenurial arrangements, the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 introduced Farm Business Tenancies (FBT).


In 1990, Michael Winter, then of the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester, carried out a survey for RICS of land tenure across England and Wales.

With funding from the RICS Education Trust, Michael Winter, now at the University of Exeter, re-visited this study, to compare the current situation with that of 1990.

What did he find? “The key finding is that there has been no fundamental shift from owner occupation towards conventional tenancies.”, noted Michael Winter.

The proportion of land let under full agricultural tenancies has dropped sharply, to be replaced by FBTs, but the overall proportion of land let conventionally appears to have actually declined slightly.

In 1990 owner occupation accounted for 58.7% of the land area – in 2007 it was 57.7%. The inexorable post-1918 increase in owner occupation has been halted but it has hardly yet been put into reverse.

There have been modest increases in both formal and informal unconventional tenures, particularly contract farming.

This suggests that although FBTs have undoubtedly filled a gap in the market they cannot cope with the contractual flexibility required in some situations.

As Michael winter concludes, “The land use and management implications for the continuing wide range of occupancy arrangements are little understood”.

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