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28 January, 2019 - 09:00 By Kate Sweeney

East accounts for quarter of all farmland sold in England in 2018

The East of England accounted for 25 per cent of the farmland sold in England during 2018, according to new research from Savills.

A total of 33,200 acres of farmland were marketed in the region last year – compared to 14,100 acres in 2017 – an increase of 135 per cent. In Great Britain as a whole there was an increase in supply of 24 per cent (England 31 per cent) for the same period.

Savills’ annual Farmland Value Survey also shows that during 2018 the average value of prime arable land in the Eastern Counties fell by 1.8 per cent to £8,770 per acre.

This compares to an average decrease for prime arable land across Great Britain of two per cent (average £8,760 per acre) for the same period – although there are significant variations across regions.

The average value of grade three livestock land in the Eastern Counties meanwhile remained stable at £4,500 per acre. 

Adrian Wilson, director of Rural Agency at the Savills Norwich office, said: “2018 was characterised by larger lot sizes, which we were often instructed to sell privately, and supply was up on 2017 –  particularly in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, even after accounting for our marketing of Strutt and Parker (Farms) Ltd.

“Values were broadly in line with 2017 but with huge variations, particularly for bare land blocks which ranged in value from £7,000/acre to £13,000/acre. Essex commanded the highest average value, reflecting limited supply and the weight of money from development gains.

“The very fact that prices remained broadly the same – despite the massive increase in supply and uncertainties around Brexit and agricultural subsidies – shows that it remains a favoured investment for many.

“Farms with diverse income streams or good infrastructure were most in demand. Unsurprisingly farmers represented a dwindling proportion of buyers with  investors, landowners and lifestyle buyers making up the majority. 

“Looking forward we see more of the same. Until the political situation is clearer we expect a lower supply for the early part of 2019.

“The key to unlock a market shrouded in both uncertainty and such a range in prices, is knowledge. There is still an appetite for land in the eastern counties but understanding the who, what, and where of this demand is paramount to achieve not only a sale but the best price.”

The Farmland Value Survey – compiled by Savills Rural Research – also looks at long term trends that might affect the market.

Emily Norton, head of the Savills Rural Research team, added: “Over the next three to five years we do predict an increase in liquidity and in the longer term there are likely to be some very significant changes in land use driven by environmental and climate change targets.

“We do not anticipate a repeat of the price increase recorded in the decade to 2014, but we do expect the market to return to its long term historical real-term growth of around one per cent per annum (ie one per cent above inflation).”

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