Nature recovery schemes may put APR at risk
Despite farmers being encouraged to create ecologically rich habitats as part of ELMS, APR is not (generally) available for land not in agricultural production (unless it is cultivated woodland ancillary to that land). Clearly the legislation relating to the tax reliefs available needs to catch up with the government’s environmental ambitions; it is unlikely that, for instance, an environmental scheme that still admits some grazing will qualify for APR. In the meantime, take advice on your APR position before committing land to rewilding or biodiversity net gain projects.
Guest v Guest
The Supreme Court has finally handed down its judgment on the dispute between Andrew Guest and his parents over his future inheritance. Andrew had been repeatedly promised by his father that he would inherit the farm, a promise supported by his parents’ original wills and partnership agreement. However, this was overturned when Andrew fell out with his parents and was asked to leave the farm. His claim for proprietary estoppel was upheld in the first instance and he was awarded 50% of the dairy business and 40% of the land and buildings. His parents appealed on the basis that such a ‘clean break’ award was unfair and contrary to Andrew’s expectation: he expected to inherit the farm rather than it being sold to fund the lump sum awarded. The Court of Appeal concurred with the first trial judge. The Supreme Court considered two principles: should Andrew receive the full value of what he had been promised or should he receive the amount he would have done had he not relied on his parents’ promise (in other words what he might have earned). In the event, the Court broadly upheld the Court of Appeal ruling but determined that the parents should choose the remedy – either to put the farm in trust for Andrew or for him to receive an early award (discounted to reflect that fact).
The future of regulation in the UK
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill (introduced to Parliament on 22 September 2022) is designed to end the special status of retained EU law from 31 December 2023 (i.e., EU-derived legislation preserved by the UK within the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018). This will enable the Government to repeal, replace or assimilate retained EU law over a three-year transition period. Individual departments will decide which parts of EU law they want to incorporate into primary domestic legislation, meaning there is potential for regulations contained in secondary legislation (of which there are 570 pieces of retained EU Law relating to Defra) to be consigned to the history books unless specifically retained. With the “sunset date” (31 December 2023) only just over a year away, we could start experiencing major changes to UK law affecting the farming sector given that many of the regulations currently in place are derived from EU legislation. We will keep a close eye on how this develops, particularly given the current political uncertainty.
The 1.25% rise in National Insurance Contributions, introduced under ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak in April this year, will be scrapped from 6 November 2022, as will the new social care levy due to come in next April. That being said, promises have been made that increased funding for health and social care services will remain despite the levy being cancelled. The July 2022 increase in the National Insurance threshold from £9,880 to £12,570 remains.
Setting environmental targets delayed
Following a consultation in March 2022, Defra announced a delay to the legislative timetable on targets laid out in the Environment Act 2021after more than 180,000 responses were received. The delay means that the Office for Environmental Protection is likely to delay their first review of the government’s environmental improvement plan. The legally binding targets include long-term targets for water, air quality, biodiversity and waste. Therese Coffey’s statement included a commitment ‘to our future target to halt the decline in species by 2030 as included on the face of the Environment Act’.