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Agricultural land

  • The land for MG 2 (43) is classified as grade 2 Agricultural land.  This is high quality land supporting a wide range of crops
  • There is a shortage of higher grade agricultural land in Wales for farmers wishing to expand - this is resulting in increased land values/farming costs

Agricultural considerations can at times form a key relevant consideration in the development plan process. Planning Policy WALES (2002). sets out the policy, identifying that land of grades 1, 2 and 3a of the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) is the best and most versatile agricultural land, and should be protected as a national resource for the future. Land in grades 1 2 and 3a should be developed only exceptionally, if there is an overriding need for the development, and sufficient land in lower grades is unavailable, or available lower grade land has an environmental value which is recognised.  Technical Advice Note 6 (TAN 6 2000) accompanies this.

The best  and  most  versatile  land  comprises  that  classified  by  DEFRA  as  Grades  1,  2  and Sub-Grade  3a.  This  land  is  defined  as  the most  flexible,  productive  and  efficient  in response to inputs. It is thus best suited to adapting to the changing needs of agriculture. Local  and national  planning  policies  steer  development  away  from  the  best  and  most versatile  land  because  of  the  national  interest  in  protecting  such land. 

Grade 2 - very good quality agricultural land  Description:
Land with minor limitations which affect crop yield, cultivations or harvesting.  A wide range of agricultural and horticultural crops can  usually be grown but on some land in the grade there may be reduced flexibility due to difficulties with the production of the  more  demanding  crops  such  as  winter harvested  vegetables  and  arable  root crops.  The level of yield is generally high but may be lower or more variable than Grade 1. 

Land quality will normally be the most important factor in considering the impact of development on agriculture However, there are other
considerations which may be material. These include; the location of the development in relation to farms; the farm size and structure; farm buildings
and other fixed equipment; land drainage and irrigation.

Planning Policy WALES (2002) notes in paragraph 2.8.1 that high quality land is recognised as a finite resource which shotd be conserved for the future, wherever possible. Such land is described as that graded I, 2 and 3a in the system of ALC and is described as “best and most versatile agricultural land” (BMV). “Considerable weight should be given to protecting such land from development, because of it’s special importance. Land in Grades 1, 2 and 3a should only be developed if there is an overriding need for the development, and either previously developed land or land In lower agricultural grades is unavailable, or available lower grade land has an environmental value recognised by a landscape, wildlife, historic or archaeological designation which outweighs the agricultural considerations. If land in grades 1, 2 or 3a does need to be developed. and there Is a choice between sites of different grades, development should be directed to land of the lowest grade”.

The national development plan framework for agricultural land is set out in Planning Policy Statement 7.  Paragraph 28 of PPS7 states that the presence of best and most versatile agricultural land (defined as land in grades 1, 2 and 3a of the Agricultural Land Classification), should be taken into account alongside other sustainability considerations.  Where significant development of agricultural land is unavoidable, local planning authorities should seek to use areas of poorer quality land (grades 3b, 4 and 5) in preference to that of a higher quality, except where this would be inconsistent with other sustainability considerations.   

The loss of under 5 hectares of BMV agricultural land is classified as - "Slight adverse" (2002 source) - the site at St Nicholas is 3.9 hectares. HOWEVER, need to check that this is the latest guidance...

Moderate Adverse, would be 5ha to 20ha of BMV.  If the land at Bonvilston was included in the objection...

It's unknown what effect the development would have on the farm business.

A potential site at Llandow has inferior agricultural land:

Research needed to find out if this land is contained in the LDP.

There are a number of factors in addition to land quality which may be relevant. These include an assessment of trespass and locational issues, the effect on farm businesses and their assets, and potential off-site impacts on field drainage or water supply. These factors are described more fully in TAN 6

TAN 6 - The Location of Development in Relation to Farms

It is noted in paragraph 7 that some farms have locations which have agricultural advantages such as accessibility to markets, processing plant and certain industries associated with agriculture Such a benefit cannot be seen to exist to any special degree on this site. 

Conversely, sites close to development may suffer from trespass or other problems inhibiting full exploitation of resources, such as irregular field shapes or sizes Trespass and field size and shape appear to be of no problem to these fields remaining in agricultural use.

The location does not affect the land from full exploitation for agriculture - indeed, it is farmed intensively.

TAN 6 - Farm Size and Structure
Paragraph B of TAN 6 notes that the
effect of development proposals on farms varies considerably. This proposal is unlikely to cause severance or fragmentation.

The price of farmland is increasing with higher grades of land increasing in price more than land of lower quality.  Turnover in agricultural land remains at historically low levels and is a tiny proportion of the total area farmed – amounting to just 0.5% in England, only 0.25% in Scotland and 0.2% in Wales. There are low levels of supply for those wishing to expand...

Grade 3 agricultural land values rose by 3.6% and higher quality land rose in value by 4.7% in 2011 in Wales

In 2011, farmers represented 54% of all buyers in the eastern regions, 65% in the Western regions and 69% in the Northern (including Scotland) regions. 

The main reason for buying farmland was expansion, which was cited as the primary reason in 50% of all deals. The majority of these were farmers expanding their farming businesses.

ALC information for Wales is held by Welsh Government. Detailed information and advice is available on request from Ian Rugg (ian.rugg@wales.gsi.gov.uk) or David Martyn (david.martyn@wales.gsi.gov.uk). 

From 1st April 2013, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) took over the functions currently carried out by the Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission Wales and the devolved functions of Environment Agency Wales.  

Further reading:

  • European Commission, 2006, ‘Thematic Strategy on Soil Protection’. 
  • European  Commission,  2006  ‘Proposal  for  a  Directive  of  the  European  Parliament  and  of  the Council Establishing a Framework for the Protection of Soil and Amending Directive 2004/35/EC’  
  • Department for Communities and Local Government, 2004, Planning Policy Statement (PPS) ‘Sustainable Development in Rural Areas’,
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 2009, ‘Safeguarding our soils: A Strategy for England' 
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 2009, ‘Code of Practice for the Sustainable Use of Soils on Construction Sites’