Boris, No-Deal Brexit and Diversification: What’s next for landowners?

No-Deal Brexit, what are the implications for farmers?

Boris Johnson has declined to give specific details about how his government would help agriculture in the event of a no-deal Brexit, after farming groups said it would be catastrophic for the sheep and lamb industry.

Before a trip to Wales on Tuesday, where he visited a chicken farm near Newport, the prime minister was urged to “stop playing Russian roulette” with farming and warned that leaving the EU without a deal could spark civil unrest.

But Johnson dismissed those concerns, saying it was important for people to be confident about the government’s no-deal plans.

During his farm visit, he declined twice to provide details on what sort of help farmers would get, beyond saying they had the support they needed, and that the government would help them to find new markets if other ones became trickier to do business with. “We have interventions that are aimed to support them and their incomes,” he added.

Johnson said: “As you know, Defra, the [agriculture] ministry, has done a huge amount already to prepare in advance to 29 March, and will do even more to prepare in the run-up to 31 October, when we come out.”

Pressed on what help would be provided, he said: “The more you prepare, and the more confident you are about the measures you put in place, the less likely it is that there will be difficulties when it comes to 31 October.”

“I’d want him to stop playing Russian roulette with the industry,”

Johnson reiterated his belief that a no-deal outcome was unlikely, and said it was up to the EU whether the UK left the bloc without a new withdrawal agreement: “It’s their call if they want us to do this.”

Helen Roberts from the National Sheep Association in Wales said it would be “absolutely catastrophic” to leave with no deal and could lead to civil unrest among sheep farmers. “I’d want him to stop playing Russian roulette with the industry,” she said.

Roberts said she did not want to see a mass slaughter for welfare reasons and that the government needed to get cold storage in place and talk about public procurement of lamb meat.

Asked about civil unrest among farmers such as tractors being used to block roads, she said: “I think they will. It is time to stand up for ourselves ... I suspect there will be protests.”

Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers Union, said there would be no market for 40% of the UK’s lamb meat in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“You would be in oversupply because you wouldn’t be able to get over the barrier of a tariff to Europe,” she said.

She said a mass slaughter was the last thing the NFU wanted but to avoid that the government would need to look at forcing hospitals, schools and other public bodies to buy lamb meat.

Alun Cairns, the Welsh secretary, agreed that farming was a winner from having access to EU markets but said there was potential for exports to new markets.

Mr Cairns repeated the government’s line that is working hard to try to secure a withdrawal agreement with the EU before Britain leaves the bloc on 31 October.

Such a deal could mean we carry on trading with the EU without having tariffs placed on goods we export to Europe.

But if there is no deal, we are likely to have to trade with other countries according to tariff schedules agreed under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation.

The housing crisis, planning regulation and opportunities for land-diversification

Johnson’s radical cabinet overhaul has seen Esther McVey handed the role of Housing Minister and millennial Robert Jenrick appointed as Housing Secretary.

National Housing Federation chief executive Kate Henderson has welcomed McVey. She said: “Housing Associations across the country look forward to working with you on building safety, resident empowerment, and delivering affordable homes and thriving communities.”

But who is Robert Jenrick?

Jenrick, the sixth housing and communities secretary in 10 years, became an MP in 2014 after winning a by-election in his Newark constituency at the age of 32 - roughly the age of the UK’s average first time homebuyer.

Writing for the Times in 2017, Robert Jenrick said of the housing crisis: "Let us be clear that this is a supply-side problem, so the policies must primarily focus on building more good homes." He proposed a series of possible solutions and said: "Now is the time to establish development corporations and build new towns in the places that need housing the most."

Jenrick called for better use of public land, much of which he said was subject to "planning consent that inexplicably never gets built out". However, Jenrick also highlighted the need to protect the green belt, calling for development to be focused "on the swathes of the rest of the country with fewer inhibitions".

Jenrick is a member of the cross-party Committee of Public Accounts which in June this year published a report, Planning and the broken housing market.

The report found that while the government "made some recent reforms to the planning system, much more needs to be done".

The committee called on MHCLG to publish year-on-year projections for the number of homes to be built, introduce additional "carrot and stick" measures to encourage councils to produce local plans, and to reform the developer contributions system.

“…we will review everything - including planning regulations, stamp duty, housing zones, as well as the efficacy of existing government initiatives”

In addition, Johnson himself has promised to “review” planning regulations to tackle the country’s housing crisis. In a speech delivered in Manchester, Johnson said the gap between people who can afford to buy a home and those who can’t is "one of the biggest divides in our country".

He promised a wide-ranging examination of the tools available to his administration to tackle the housing crisis

He said: "So we will review everything - including planning regulations, stamp duty, housing zones, as well as the efficacy of existing government initiatives."

He added that the government would "emphasise the need, the duty, to build beautiful homes that people actually want to live in and being sensitive to local concerns".

Irrespective of the Brexit outcome, the government must deliver on the housing crisis. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government released its assessment of housing delivery for England’s local authorities going back to 2015/16 against the actual number of homes delivered.

The government deems 95% delivery of assessed need as the pass rate, and 109 organisations missed this target, including the London Legacy Development Corporation.

The figures will be used to incentivise councils to drive up housing delivery, with a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” the ultimate sanction for poor performance. A total of 58 councils could face this penalty by 2020 unless their development increases. Where sanctioned, councils would be forced to grant planning permissions unless the impact would “significantly and demonstrably” outweigh the benefits.

Councils that deliver between 85% and 95% of assessed need must develop an action plan, while those that deliver between 25% and 85% must identify 20% more land for development than originally required in the five-year supply included in local plans.

Based on the current figures a total of 117 areas (which includes one development corporation) delivered less housing than was needed over the past three years.

Among these, 109 fell below the 95% pass mark, with 87 of these below 85% and facing the introduction of a 20% ‘buffer’. The remaining 22 must develop action plans to increase delivery.

The lowest percentage was recorded by the New Forest, which saw 755 homes built against an assessed need of 2,144 – 35% of its assessed need.

No councils will face a presumption of sustainable development as a result of this first batch of assessments, which would only kick in this year if delivery fell below 25%.

However, under current plans this threshold will increase to 45% for the current year’s figures (due to be published in November) and to 75% from 2020. Based on the current figures, seven areas (Adur, Thanet, Barking and Dagenham, City of London, Redbridge, Calderdale, and New Forest) would be caught by this threshold this year.

A further 58 would be affected by 2020.

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