City folk force up farmland prices

02 February 2004
The price of land in rural Britain has hit a record high as demand continues to be driven by non-farmers.

A survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that individual non-farmers accounted for 51 per cent of sales nationwide during the final three months of 2003, up from 45 per cent in the previous quarter, while the number of farmers buying more land fell to less than 40 per cent.

The survey showed that city slickers are continuing to buy up rural retreats, with the trend growing most strongly in the South East, where almost two thirds (65 per cent) of land and buildings were bought by people who were not farmers.

RICS revealed that during 2003 farmland was selling for an average of £7,931 a hectare, 7.3 per cent more than during 2002.

Demand was highest for land with residential property, although it also increased for commercial farmland, particularly in the South East, East and East Midlands.

RICS rural spokesman Julian Sayers said: "Overall land prices are rising, particularly for smaller parcels and those with amenity value as rural land becomes an appealing investment for those with cash to spend in the property market. We may well see this trend continue when City bonuses are announced."

The figures showed the level of sales remained low, with 4,100 hectares sold during the final quarter of the year, slightly up on the record low seen during the three months to the end of September.

RICS said that, while the study suggested farmers were being squeezed out of the market, many sales of commercial farms and land remained on hold pending further details of proposed new agricultural support.