DEFRA have published the Government's summary of responses to the consultation on reform of agricultural tenancies, and statement as to how it intends to proceed with legislation. This has a clear connection with Net Zero efforts, as it is looking to amend the framework of agricultural tenancies for the future.
Of particular note, it now looks like the suitability test for successions to Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 tenancies will be substantially revised. This will almost certainly bring in some form of reference to sustainable or carbon-reductive farming, as well as good soil management (which brings with it carbon benefits).
Similarly, the Government now wishes to introduce provisions that would enable a tenant to challenge restrictive use clauses in tenancies, so that they are not prevented from accessing future funding schemes, or meeting statutory obligations.
While these changes are subtle, and do not have the immediacy of, for example, the legislative incorporation of EPCs for letting or selling properties, they will have a long term impact on rural land, and the quote from the NFU shows that they will be taken seriously.
NFU tenants’ forum chair, Chris Cardell, said: “The NFU is pleased to see the reforms that have been brought forward which we believe will give tenants greater flexibility and remove some barriers to productivity and potentially allow them access to new Environmental Schemes. “However, it is disappointing that not more of the reforms have been taken forward in the Agriculture Bill, in particular the need to include requests for landlords consent or variation of terms under the Agricultural Tenancies Act in addition to AHAs. “We also have concerns regarding the reform of the Suitability Test including the wording ‘Environmental Care’ and agree how this is applied should be carefully considered and the work undertaken by the Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG).