Land managers share expertise on policy issues

The prosperity and development of business in rural Scotland are some of the key issues discussed at an event for land managers.

Organised by Scottish Land & Estates and jointly sponsored by Savills and Brodies, more than 75 rural professionals attended Perth Racecourse to examine issues including land reform, rural planning, agricultural holdings and planned changes to energy efficiency standards for residential let properties.

Afternoon workshops were led by Savills and Brodies as well as Police Scotland and Highland Small Communities Housing Trust. Delegates discussed private water supplies, crime prevention, affordable rural housing and forestry on farms.

The event concluded with a panel session to discuss and debate topics from the day’s deliberations and other issues of importance in the countryside.

Katy Dickson, head of policy at Scottish Land & Estates, said: ‘We were pleased to welcome land managers from across Scotland to this event which allows professionals to keep up to date with ever-evolving regulations as well as discuss important issues for Scotland’s rural areas with peers.

‘It was a lively event and there is a genuine desire to continue to improve business practice and identify opportunities for growth in our rural economy. Our thanks go to all who attended and to Savills and Brodies for sponsoring this worthwhile event.’

Clive Phillips, head of land and rural business at Brodies, said: ‘Scotland’s rural businesses are no stranger to change, and the resilience that the sector has shown before has demonstrated its ability to find opportunity in challenging circumstances.

‘Preparation is key for any viable business, and by supporting events like this, we can equip land managers with expert knowledge and practical advice, to lead the sector forward into the next phase.’

Savills’ rural planning expert Debbie Mackay encouraged delegates to grasp opportunities to provide land for affordable housing to meet Government 2020 targets. She also updated delegates on Scottish planning reform and its implications for rural areas.

She said: ‘The planning bill is having a turbulent passage through Parliament. MSPs’ amendments are changing beyond recognition the original reforms, which were designed to facilitate housing development.

‘New radical changes include the compulsory purchase of development land at “existing use” value, a power which is dangerously premature coming before the full implications are investigated by the Scottish Land Commission.’

Savills estate management specialist Jonny Willett later discussed the new regulations that are now in force for all water supplies, outlining responsibilities they place on landlords and the practical steps they can take to achieve compliance.

He said: ‘Whilst many landowners have proper management regimes in place, the new regulations have changed goalposts and formalised requirements. It is vitally important that farmers and landowners meet these requirements as the “responsible person”. This event provided an excellent forum to discuss the practicalities and challenges of doing so.’