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Thursday, 29 October 2015 00:00

Opening night success

Shropshire Drama Company took to the stage at Theatre Severn for a highly successful first night of their production “As you like it.” Mistaken identity and love are plot credentials which saw Eleanor Gromadzki-Owen, and fellow actors woo the audience.

SDC spokesperson, Neville Street, says that since Eleanor joined the company and was given a fairly minor role in Romeo & Juliet some six years ago, she has blossomed into an excellent leading actor. As you like it sees her play Rosalind, Duke Senior’s daughter, later disguised as Ganymede.

Eleanor, whose day job is with local land agents, Balfours, says she loves the magic of the stage: “There is something very special about captivating the audience – being on stage is challenging but hugely rewarding.” The production runs until Saturday, with seats still available.

Ellie as you like it

  • Pictured from left, Jenny Ebrey, playing Celia, Eleanor Gromadzki-Owen, Rosalind and Alex Beechey, playing Oliver.

Lady Mary of Downton Abbey may not approve, but Tom would love the idea of taking up residence in an apartment at Styche Hall, Market Drayton.

This fabulous four bedroom apartment is on the market with Balfours Property Professionals. Within the grand Grade II listed Styche Hall boasts a truly inspirational setting within the rolling countryside of north east Shropshire. Market Drayton is just two and a half miles away with Telford, Shrewsbury and Chester each easily commutable.

Offering magnificent views and situated on the second floor, the apartment boasts a large living room with bay window. The kitchen is of spacious proportions too and has good natural light. There are four bedrooms, two ensuite, plus a family bathroom serving the other two rooms.

Agent, Scott Kemsley of Balfours Property Professionals comments: “The Georgian house was designed by Sir William Chambers, and was originally the home of the parents of Sir Robert Clive of India. It has a fantastic feel of relaxation, mainly due to the beautifully ornate spacious rooms. The location within nine acres of amazing countryside and woodlands incorporating three acres of gardens is unprecedented and only shared by a small handful of residents.”

Apartment Four, Styche Hall, is marketed with a guide price of £300,000. For more information call Scott Kemsley on 01743 353511 or visit www.balfours.co.uk.

 

Scott Kemsley

Thursday, 22 October 2015 00:00

Epic journey to join us for winter – we hope

The weather is turning along with the leaves and next week the clocks go back. These are little signatures of winter being imminent that we all recognise in the UK.

It does make me marvel though, at the epic journey the woodcock are beginning to negotiate travelling in excess of 2,000 miles to return to the UK. The Game and Conservation Wildlife Trust are currently tracking 20 birds, of which 11 are in Russia and a further five in Scandinavia.

Since 2003 to 2013 the research into woodcock numbers has shown a decrease in population by 29%. Not knowing the exact reason for the decline, it could be a number of factors including loss of habitat, increased predation in Russia, climatic conditions.

Further research, and therefore funding, is needed. The GWCT are tracking these 20 woodcock as they migrates across Europe and back again, sometimes to the very same field. The cost of buying, fitting a tag and monitoring a woodcock on its epic migration for one year is £3,500.

You can subscribe to email updates from the woodcock watch blog and follow news and location updates on social media. To support the GWCT cause go to the just giving page; with such a decrease in numbers to sit and do nothing would be woefully neglectful.

Sitting on the border with Wales we need to be aware of new fox-snaring code for Wales. The GWCT is highly supportive of the new code of best practice on the use of snares in fox control in Wales. GWCT has been instrumental along with other organisations in developing this new workable code for Wales. The code seeks to deliver higher animal welfare standards, increased efficiency in fox control, and ensure that fewer non-target species are caught.

I suspect it won’t be long before the introduction of a similar code of practice on snaring for England. I know the instinct is to consider we all know better, but by signing up and practicing good husbandry it gives those who consider all foxes have a right to be here less ground for complaint.

Remember our great grandfathers would have chuckled at the idea of badgers being protected. Best Practice Snaring courses, run jointly by the GWCT and the National Gamekeeopers Organisation. Courses are run throughout the year.

Tim Main, head of sales at Balfours, is Chairman of the Shropshire Branch of the GWCT. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015 00:00

Shropshire rental property in strong demand

One of the busiest months on record means a Shropshire letting agent is now seeking new housing stock.

Balfours letting agent, Charlotte George MARLA, says properties of all shapes and sizes have flown off the books during September. She says: “August is traditionally a month where people want to move for schools and jobs, but the demand just kept going in September making it exceptionally busy across the full range of homes.”

Larger properties included a period house and a farm house, each with six bedrooms and each snapped up very quickly. “We have had just as much demand for one and two bed flats, bungalows, cottages, barn conversions and modern houses which have all been moving quickly.”

She says Shropshire and border county residents continue to face competition for rented accommodation from people moving into the area, from throughout the UK and abroad.

“Last month we had one couple moving back from New Zealand and taking a tenancy. Block visits for an estate property yielded a high level of viewings, very positive feedback and a number of applications for that property. This delighted the landlord giving a good choice of tenants and achieving the full rental value,” Charlotte explains.

According to Charlotte October is continuing the trend with a significant number of new instructions boding well for landlords and tenants. For more information call Charlotte on 01743 277069. 

South Shropshire and the surrounding borders are being labelled the “new Cotswolds,” as the number of southerners seeking a place to live within 20 miles of Ludlow strengthens.

“Ludlow and the surrounding villages, both in Shropshire and over the borders to Herefordshire, Powys and Worcestershire, are increasingly keenly sought after, as aspirational home owners from the south east recognise that they can make very favourable lifestyle choices,” says Scott Kemsley, of Balfours Property Professionals.

According to Scott, buyers include those who want to retire, semi-retire to a vocational career and those who are seeking a holiday home. “We currently have a number of buyers on our books that are looking to settle further north. The rural midlands puts them in the centre of the country, where nowhere is too far away.”

He says it is because Ludlow indulges on so many levels, as a historic medieval market town, for its gastro foodie culture and its continually developing cultural offer, not only in Ludlow, but just down the road in Hay on Wye.

“Beyond the town we have the most fantastic rural landscape with a medley of villages, all of which amount to a very meaningful change of lifestyle for anyone currently living in or near the city. Our country and town houses offer a wide range of styles from mansions, to half-timbered and stone farmhouses, village properties; most with glorious views and access to fantastic countryside.

“There is no doubt the market has changed in the past ten years, not only have the road and transport networks improved, but the plethora of communications systems over the internet now enables lifestyle choices which would have been impossible even a decade ago.”

Scott adds: “We would be delighted to speak with anyone considering selling in the area. We currently have proceedable buyers on our books patiently waiting for the right property, which can be in many guises. For vendors there can be merit in short circuiting the ‘for sale’ sign and the viewing process in favour of one serious buyer who is prepared to pay true market value.”

If you would like to discuss your property with Scott Kemsley, call 01743 353511 or email, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Friday, 09 October 2015 00:00

What is the future for UK farmland prices?

Every solar farm and anaerobic digester built is taking land out of agriculture’s traditional role of food production. Other factors reducing land for food production include infrastructure development such as road and rail, as well as commercial and residential development. In England alone the government is driving for one million houses to be built in the next five years.  Once taken out of agriculture and food production - it’s gone for good.

Despite the continued reduction in the finite resource of land, the impact of low world market commodity prices is also an influence. 

Technology is countering the diminishing land resource with productivity continuing to increase thanks to scientific research and development with world leaders targeting to double world food production in the next 15 years.

So what effect do these conflicting influences have on land prices?

The amount of land sold to benchmark against remains minimal. A few very large enterprises have come to the open market in the eastern counties, while in the west of the country working farms and land for sale remain in short supply.

The market in the eastern counties, fuelled by these few very large sales, has been supported by investor clients seeing agricultural land as a finite and diminishing resource and therefore a good long term investment.

In the west of the country the buyers generally remain active farmers who recognise that if they are to grow their enterprise, buying nearby land at the market rate is one of the few options to growing the business and spreading costs.

Currently we have a 330 acre mixed holding on the market, located on the Shropshire -Welsh border at Bishops Castle. Interest is generally from the more progressive farmers in the region. Many of these farms already have three or four holdings - and simply need to expand within a manageable distance for men, machinery and livestock to travel.

In the perfect world these farms would like to have 800 to 1500 acres within one ring fence. However history dictates that such sizeable farms are extremely rare in this part of the world, because farming has prospered through traditional mixed family farms averaging 200 to 300 acres. 

Consolidation

This year has been one of consolidation for land prices, following the rapid increases experienced in recent years, there has been no fall back and land values continue to be robust. The two key factors leading to a strong land market remain accessibility and size. Both make a significant difference to the number of people a parcel is suitable for and will appeal to, and ultimately influences the final price. In addition low interest rates continue to hold, offering good long term deals.

It would be wrong to overlook the fact that the price of land has never directly reflected the return from agriculture; other factors have significantly affected the value, particularly tax reliefs. However, there is speculation and uncertainty over Inheritance Tax Relief and Capital Tax roll over relief.

Land is perceived as a recession proof investment attracting both business and private investors, the latter benefiting from amenities linked to the land, including sporting rights, wildlife, social standing and privacy all of which can go hand in hand with owning land.

Lot 2 arable land

Lot 2 Setting

IMG 3219

Thursday, 08 October 2015 00:00

Land letting trends

This year has seen an increasing trend to offer tenancies to known individuals “off market,” according to Agent, Andrew Liddiment of Balfours Property Professionals.

He says: “Agricultural lettings conducted by Balfours have all been met with strong demand, with a noticeable increase in tenancies offered to known individuals off market. In my involvement with four new lettings – which have all been very different units; only one was put to the open market. Despite this, all have yielded excellent applications and results. It’s a picture that is replicated by other agents too.”

Andrew says that in each case the certainty of achieving progressive relationships and land management objectives was the driver, bolstered by the knowledge that income did not have to be sacrificed to achieve these aims.

He continues: “Farmers are seeking extra land to ensure equipment and infrastructure is working for them with maximum efficiency, with depressed commodity prices at present analysing and creating efficiencies in a farming business is key.  Those who have been successful in expanding by taking on extra tenanted land have one thing in common, they appreciate excellent husbandry and a track record of good relations are very important to prospective landlords and key to expansion in this way.’

“From the landlord’s viewpoint re-letting is time consuming, disruptive and costly, so if it must be done we must ensure we get it right.

“This year we have let very different land packages, from top grade arable, to land requiring improvement, across Shropshire and neighbouring counties. Throughout the driver has been the mutual benefit of both parties,” he adds. Andrew, who is based at Balfours Craven Arms office, can be contacted on 01588 673314.

Tuesday, 06 October 2015 00:00

Grade II listed barn, A* conversion

Craftsmanship, quality materials and semi-open plan living lift this grade II listed barn into A* category.

Number two, Beeches Barn is a stunning four bedroom stone barn conversion in an idyllic location, just above the village Marton, situated on the Shropshire/Welsh border. Local amenities are found within the village while Welshpool and Shrewsbury six and 16 miles respectively are each easy commutes.

Agent, Tim Main of Balfous says: “The property has been finished with high quality materials, including limestone flooring and oak doors, window frames and staircase. There is a real wow factor in the open plan sitting, dining room, which spans more than ten metres by four and a half. A Clearview stove is a focal point within a central wall.”

The kitchen is of similar dimensions with central island and dedicated dining area, a limestone floor and glazing to three aspects add to the light ambiance, while exposed beams are a feature throughout the property. The kitchen provides access to the utility where appliances are plumbed and incorporating a separate wc and a link door offers access directly to the garage.

With underfloor heating on both levels, the property is void of radiators – ensuring that space is maximised. There are four double rooms on the first floor, the master room with en-suite facilities and a family bathroom. 

Says Mr Main: “This is a fabulous and very well presented property well worthy of viewing. The area is ideal for those who enjoy country pursuits, while being easily accessible to road networks and a good selection of private and state schools.”

Two, Beeches Barn is marketed with a guide price of £450,000. For more information call Tim Main on 01743 353511 or visit www.balfours.co.uk

Tuesday, 29 September 2015 00:00

County’s residential sale hot-spots - patchy

Shropshire’s residential property market is revealing a few hot-spots, but one agent is cautious of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors which has doubled its property price forecast for 2015 up from a 3% rise to 6%.

The RICS justified its revision as the number of homes for sale fell to the lowest level in more than 30 years, which, combined with rising buyer demand and low interest rates, is pushing up prices.

Head of sales, Tim Main at Balfours Property Professionals, which has offices in Shrewsbury, Craven Arms and Hereford, said: “The market remains patchy; we have achieved a number of exceptionally speedy sales this summer, particularly in the £400,000 price region. For instance the sale of Blackhurst Cottagesouth of Shrewsbury was agreed within two weeks and we have sold others amid competition and above guide price.”

However the agent says that is not the case for all: “Unfortunately not all properties are courting such popularity and success in the market which remains patchy; every house and every buyer is individual. The important thing is to get the presentation right, particularly online and to ensure that the unique selling points of the property are highlighted to the buyer who wants something specific to their requirements."

The RICS has also lowered its forecast for the number of transactions for 2015 from 1.25m to 1.2m: “I would endorse this forecast, as we continue to seek stock on behalf of clients, which is why I would urge anyone considering marketing their property to take those first steps, they may well be very pleasantly surprised,” adds Mr Main.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015 00:00

Appeal wins shepherd’s right to watch flock

Three years ago the National Planning Policy Framework (The NPPF) replaced most of the previous planning policy statements and guidance.  PPS7 which was the previous guidance for planning in the countryside contained four pages on guidance relating to tied dwellings for forestry or agriculture.  The new guidance is condensed to one paragraph of which only two lines relate to tied dwellings.

You may imagine that the simplified guidance would lead to a simplified planning process, this is not our experience. Despite the change in National Planning Guidance three years ago, some Local Planning Authorities are still resisting applications for new agricultural workers dwellings on unjustified grounds. 

In a recent case we were involved in, the Local Planning Authority refused a new agricultural workers dwelling on a 400 acre farm on the basis that the main enterprise was a sheep flock of 1,100 sheep and that a full time dwelling was not required.  The Council justified their decision on the basis that a full time presence was only required during lambing and that a farm manager could live in a caravan on the farm during the busy lambing period at springtime. 

Happily, we were able to demonstrate at a Planning Appeal that the Council’s approach was unjustified and that a full time dwelling was required.   The Planning Inspector, having heard arguments from both sides, agreed with me and allowed the appeal.   Whilst this decision was obviously welcomed, it is frustrating. There should not have been the need to go to appeal if the Council had not sought to apply a blanket policy “that sheep only farms do not need a permanent dwelling,” without looking at the individual facts of the case.

It is not just the NPPF which has tried to simplify the planning process.   Permitted Development Rights now allow the conversion of agricultural buildings to residential and other various uses or the conversion of offices to residential.  However, on the conversion of agricultural buildings to residential use we are seeing different approaches being taking by various Local Planning Authorities but generally these rights are helping speed up decisions as these must be made within 56 days unlike a planning application.

As an aside, looking back at statistics, ten years ago nationally 83% of applications were approved compared to last year where 88% were approved.  This would suggest simplification is working, it just does not feel like it all the time! Justin Stevenson planning consultant and associate partner with Balfours Property Professionals, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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