Landowners are facing a mosaic of change with a combination of factors coming together with the potential to have a profound influence on how rural estates are managed in the future.
The list below highlights ten key drivers of change – which offer both challenges and opportunities for rural estates.
England has already started on its journey of moving away from direct support payments to a system of rewarding farmers and landowners for the provision of public goods. The transition looks to be slower in Scotland and Wales, but is ultimately expected to take a similar path.
Historically, rural areas have been held back by poor connectivity. But this is starting to change as new solutions to improving mobile and broadband coverage emerge. This should stimulate business growth and encourage new entrants who may be keen to base their businesses in the countryside.
Many people have embraced the shift to home working enforced on us by COVID-19 lockdowns, but as time has gone on more and more of us are noticing the downsides, such as the lack of human contact. Could there be a growing appetite for shared space or serviced offices in rural locations?
Online shopping has become the primary means for many people to buy goods, over the course of the pandemic. The opportunity for producers on rural estates to trade directly with consumers and add value to their produce through e-commerce has never been greater.
The climate change crisis has sparked huge debate about the nature of land use in the UK. The industry is unique in that while it is a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – about 10% of all UK emissions – it also has the potential to help to mitigate climate change by acting as a carbon sink.
A key element of the UK’s emissions reductions to date has been the switch to lower carbon intensity forms of energy and many farms and estates have embraced this. A future challenge is moving towards energy positive homes and buildings, where the property generates more energy than it consumes.
Rural estates are seen by some as the conspicuous face of inherited wealth and are facing greater public scrutiny than ever before. Questions are being asked about tax exemptions currently offered to landowners and we have already seen Scotland go down the route of introducing land reform legislation.
After COVID-19 there is likely to be much greater focus on public health, and research proves that access to the countryside is beneficial for health and wellbeing. Identifying new, creative ways of helping to deliver improvements in public health could be another opportunity for estates.
Future of housing
COVID-19 has seen a rise in the number of people wanting to live in rural areas, as people seek the benefits of space and fresh air. Get the offering right – with a key ingredient being a good broadband connection – and estates should have potential to attract premium rates for high-quality rental properties.
An emphasis on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria is expected to become much more mainstream in the rural sector. In fact, some estates have already appointed an ESG officer. Socially conscious investors use ESG standards to screen potential investments.
This article is part of a wider Land Business Insights publication on The Future of the Estate. Navigating the changes that lie ahead for rural estates will require innovative thinking and a proactive approach. The team at Strutt & Parker is here to help you on that journey, working alongside you to evaluate your options and turn plans into action. Please do get in touch if you would like to talk about any of the report’s contents.