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One hundred agricultural students from right across the UK, representing ten agricultural Universities and Colleges, descended on Shropshire’s Sundorne Estate, near Shrewsbury earlier this month (November), to formulate their ideas for its future in the annual Institute of Agricultural Management’s (IAgrM) 2017 “FarmPlanner Competition.”  

Incorporating ideas of the next generation into the farm business plan is often met with enthusiasm and reservations in equal measure but host Jon Birchall, Farm Business Consultant for Balfours, who took over the management of the 1500 acre farm in 2014 is hugely excited by the whole process: “Every generation hands over the baton to the next at some point. The competition is an ideal opportunity to harness the vision and enthusiasm of youth and share the benefits of acquired experience with them." 

The large farming operation comprises a huge variety of cropping options including milling wheat, oilseed rape, forage rye which is grown specifically for a local anaerobic digestion plant; forage maize for a local dairy farmer; potatoes, carrots, fodder beet and stubble turnips. The Sundorne Estate land runs on both sides of the A49 around Shrewsbury, incorporating what used to be the largest field in the county (300 acres) until it was bisected by the road. 

Jon sets the scene for the students: “The 1500 acres I manage is made up of a collection of formerly tenanted farms, taken back in-hand as they have come available. Taking the land in-hand represents a higher investment and higher risk for the owners, compared to letting land on a Farm Business Tenancy. 

“The grade II sandy loam will grow almost anything, especially with the added advantage of excellent irrigation facilities courtesy of the nearby Tern and the Severn, plus significant water storage across the estate.” He gives the students a hint of his aspirations for the land: “the soils have had a hard time: organic matter is depleted, we should look to improve and enhance soil quality”. 

Currently, Jon’s management focuses on working with ten different contractors, all high quality operators each with their specialist areas and knowledge. “We access some of our cropping options through them,” he says; adding that while he is cost conscious, he is seeking to build close working relationships and he has respect for those prepared to invest in their equipment.  Jon continues: “Ryegrass and black grass are a big issue for us that we constantly work on, using a wide diversity of crops is a line of attack which is currently providing huge benefit.” 

Jon explains: “Cereals account for 500 acres, with all the straw being utilised on 50 acres of carrots, with early lifting planned between April and May. While the carrots are a worthwhile and generally profitable crop, there are difficulties in terms of soil damage and difficulties in managing the carbon: nitrogen ratio. Parsnips could be a possibility for the future”.  

He challenges the students to know the cost of wheat production: “For us it is £125/tonne.  Farmers generally are not good at selling, yet the grain price itself is the single biggest factor affecting the profitability of wheat .Currently the pound is working in our favour.” 

While the only capital equipment currently owned by the Sundorne Estate farming enterprise is a moisture meter, the farm does have and utilizes both modern and traditional farm buildings as part of the farming enterprise. At present the Estate has grain storage capacity of 2,400 tonnes, with a further 300 tonnes of grain presently stored in a contractors’ store; however there are plans to significantly improve storage capacity within the Estate. 

At Downton Farm, on the Estate, there is a range of traditional farmbuildings that are currently used for storage of straw, chemicals, fertilizer, feed for the Estate shoot and water for arable crop spraying. One of their challenges is to maximise the steading’s farm buildings without a sale, as part of a re-organisation of the buildings used in connection with the farming operation. Holiday lets or residential are possibilities and thanks to the Estate’s tree and hedge planting policy in recent times the land is both aesthetically pleasing and contributing to conservation as well as being productive and profitable. Another challenge for the students is how to prepare the farm business to mitigate potential reduction in the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).  

It is not just the A49, which has intersected this large farming enterprise, pylons and power lines run directly across the arable land and are serviced by a substation surrounded by Estate land. Stepping into the future Jon sees a potential opportunity for companies seeking industrial scale battery storage. 

The IAgrM FarmPlanner Competition is geared to ensure that today’s agricultural students are fully engaged in rural management, which pushes the boundaries of technology, science and entrepreneurial flare. For those chosen to take Sundorne Estate to the next level, there are high stakes: a bonus to the CV and job prospects and potential media kudos.

This year’s event, the 24th annual such competition, is nationally sponsored by Farmplan and Bayer, with additional local sponsorship from Hutchinsons, Lloyds Banks and CF Fertilisers. There are five tickets for the winning team to attend the International Farm Management Congress in Edinburgh from 2 – 7 July 2017 – where the seeds of the next generation will be the harvest of reality. 

For further information about the 2016/2017 IAgrM FarmPlanner Competition, visit the IAgrM website.


Jon Birchall, Balfours consultant and Richard Cooksley, IAgrM director with the moisture meter.


farmplan RC and JB


farmplan harper students

farmplan Jon Birchall

Thursday, 17 November 2016 00:00

Providing tailored long-term funding through AMC

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We are proud to work with AMC the leading supplier of long-term funding for the agricultural sector.

As AMC Agents, we can provide you with tailored funding to support most rural business activities. You’ll benefit from simple, flexible and affordable lending to support your consolidation, growth or diversification plans.

Who are AMC?

AMC have more than 85 years’ experience lending to the agricultural sector, specialising in long-term mortgages and loans for farms and rural businesses. It means they understand the challenges and opportunities impacting you and the whole agricultural sector.

The benefits of AMC finance

  • When we help you access AMC finance, you will receive a swift response on your funding proposal. You will also benefit from:
  • Competitive mortgage rates, with interest-only and repayment options available or a blend of both
  • Rates can be set for the life of the agreement, unlike many other secured loans or overdraft agreements
  • No annual reviews or the need to see annual accounts – we leave you alone to get on with the business of farming
  • No early repayment charges for variable rate loans
  • Finance secured against land as well as property to help you increase the capital you can raise
  • Loans and mortgage agreements can be transferred to the next generation
  • Access to AMC’s experienced and knowledgeable support teams who understand the sector’s unique funding needs
  • Funding decisions that can be approved in principal before you make a sealed bid or go to auction

Please note that the above are subject to AMC credit criteria and your obligations to AMC continuing to be met.

Who can access AMC funding?

Whether you are a sole trader, partnership, limited company or trust, providing you are an agricultural, horticultural, equine or other commercial land-based business you can access AMC’s competitive funding.

All lending must be for business purposes only and will be provided on a secured loan basis. It can be used to support a number of different opportunities, including:

  • Land purchase
  • New equipment or machinery
  • Building new or improving current structures
  • Diversification plans
  • New stock
  • Buying a farm tenancy
  • Refinancing current debt
  • Working capital support
  • Paying out a business/family partner to gain sole control

Types of loan available through AMC

AMC’s tailored finance is structured within two core products.

  • Long-term borrowing – allowing you to borrow from £25,001 upwards through a long-term standard-loan. Repayment terms are available between five and 30 years, with interest rates that can be variable or fixed*.
  • Flexible short-term loans – giving you loans from £30,000+ that can be spread over five years and the opportunity to make flexible monthly repayments to match the ebbs and flows of your cash flow throughout the year.

* There is always a possibility that interest rates may go down leaving a fixed rate loan at a higher level compared to a variable rate loan. However, if interest rates rise, a fixed rate loan will remain at the same rate.

How can Balfours help?

As an AMC Agent we have helped our clients find tailored and competitive agricultural loans through our relationship with AMC. We can provide expert guidance on your financial needs and a quick decision.  To discuss the options of borrowing from AMC and how they could assist you please call Rory Galliers 01743 241181 or Peter Wright 01588 673314 in confidence or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

AMC loans available for business purposes only, provided on a secured loan basis. Minimum AMC standard loan £25,001, minimum flexible facility £30,000. To meet customer requirements, lending criteria will vary. Lending is subject to status.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016 00:00

Post-Brexit interest rates triggers opportunity

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Due to the Brexit referendum results, base interest rates are at an historic low, unheard of in modern times, having dropped at one point by 0.75% since June 23.  Long term fixed rates have since started to rise, probably on worry of future inflation, but now remains a good time to consider consolidating loans, implementing expansion or realising new enterprises, says Rory Galliers Balfours partner and agent for AMC.

He explains: “When banks can offer long term funding ataround 4%, then it really isn’t going to get any better. The cost of long term borrowing has dropped since the referendum, but is now starting to edge.

“As we approach the government’s self-imposed March 2017 deadline to invoke Article 50, it is hard to judge what will happen particularly now that we have the High Court ruling which may hamper that deadline and of course America has President Trump.  One can only assume that taking advantage of low interest rates, whilst available, must make good sense to consolidate current borrowings; take forward projects, diversify and develop the business and to acquire land or property.

“The potential problem is that as the value of the pound falls and the stock market rises then inflation is likely; and at some point counter inflation measures, which could include interest rate rises, would have to be implemented.” Rory observes.

“We have found that reassessing fixed rate loans taken out when rates were higher, adding any redemption penalties to the balance and restructuring the whole into a new loan at current day interest rates can prove cost effective in some cases. Paying redemption fees may be a bitter pill and may not be insubstantial, nevertheless if it means the business is better off in the future then it is a no brainer,” he adds.

And while feasibility studies may not have warranted investment two or five years ago, right now the figures may look very different. “We have clients coming to us to successfully consolidate their current loan facility and to push on with the next phase of investment, be it the purchase of land, to refurbishment of barns, green energy or expansion of a current enterprise.”

Having established that consolidation or investment is required what terms to sign up to can be argued several ways. Should it be a repayment loan or interest only?  Says Rory: “One school of thought is that in 30 years’ time £100,000 could be the price of a cup of coffee, so to speak, and in which case what would be the point of paying the capital. Indeed it is a fact that in the past farm loans taken on interest only agreements have been paid off at the end of the term with one milk cheque. However there is a certain reassurance of a repayment loan in knowing that the capital is being paid off throughout the term. Every case is different and must be judged very carefully by the borrower and his financial advisor.”

He continues: “One reason for not making capital repayments is that only the interest on a loan is tax deductible, although this may also be subject to restriction with new regulations due to be phased in from April 2017 . There is currently no tax relief for paying off capital therefore if cash flow is sensitive and a view is taken on inflation over thirty years –there is an argument for an interest only loan, which will only be one to one and a half per cent higher than a standard repayment loan.

“For smaller loans over a shorter time frame interest rates will be scaled accordingly, for example a loan of £50,000 at 4.5% fixed for ten years, could well be a very good deal and highly viable. Agricultural loans are usually to a maximum of 60% of the security offered, so to borrow £1m assets to the value of about £1.7m would be used as security.

“Showing the loan can be serviced through three years’ accounts is also an important benchmark, though there are occasions when forward cash forecasts can be taken into account. When a client approaches us we can prepare the loan application after which our first port of call is usually AMC who have a reputation as ‘lend and leave,’ so long as payments are made they let you get on with your business,” Rory concludes.

If you are looking to invest in agricultural property or land, see our Agricultural Listings and Development Opportunities or contact our sales team on 01743 353511.

Monday, 14 November 2016 00:00

Generous space, with maturity

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A stunning and spacious contemporary kitchen breakfast room is among the assets on offer at The Mount. This well-presented three bedroom Edwardian home is located in the popular village of Minsterley, ten miles west of Shrewsbury.

Marketed by Balfours, internally The Mount has many period features: From sash windows and high ceilings to the decorative timber front gable and arch with recessed front door. The stained glass door and flanking windows is a refurbished feature offering the best of both worlds.

Each of the ground floor rooms are accessed from the spacious entrance hall. There are two reception rooms, currently used as living room with bay window and dining room with French doors. There is a downstairs cloakroom.

Agent, Tim Main says: “The jewel in the crown is the very generously sized kitchen breakfast room. This has been tastefully fitted with a kitchen island and contemporary fitted units which complement the high ceilings, while a fireplace and bay window offer an area in which to relax. To the far end of the kitchen is a utility room and below stairs a useful cellar.”

There are three bedrooms on the first floor, together with a family bathroom. A separate shower-room and two dressing rooms, which do, if so minded have the potential as en-suite facility.

The large mature garden incorporates a decked area with direct access to the dining room. Outside there is also parking and a garden shed. The property is close to the Shropshire Hills which is an Area of Outstanding Beauty. This is a living, working place, loved by locals and visitors alike for its quality of environment, for walking and activities of all levels.

The Mount is marketed with a guide price of £320,000; for more information call Tim Main on 01743 353511.

Please click here for further details.


Mount main

Mount garden

Mount door

Mount kitchen

Monday, 14 November 2016 00:00

Spacious conversion former dwelling of Shires

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A spacious four bedroom barn conversion located six miles from Shrewsbury has been launched to the market by Balfours.

The Old Stables, Stapleton, would have been home to the farm’s Shire Horses – such is the capacity of the stabling – now bespoke living accommodation. Over the threshold the entrance hall links to each of the downstairs rooms.

Agent Scott Kemsley explains: “The kitchen breakfast room, which opens through into a dedicated dining area, is exquisitely fitted with a handmade oak kitchen, where glazing to two aspects offers good natural light. A generous 50 square metres creates the open plan living room, where the chimney breast, with log burner, semi divides offering a cosy retreat area.”

Ascending stairs from the hall, where the wc and storage space can also be found, the first floor provides a sumptuous master bedroom with ensuite and built in wardrobes, together with a further three bedrooms and family bathroom.

Today the Old Stables – accommodates the passage of time with a double garage – and above is the added bonus of a family room with cloakroom, ideal for hobbies, play or a guestroom. This space also provides a significant amount of storage, from whence Father Christmas and other annual artefacts can emerge for their special seasons, including ball on the lawned garden.

Scott adds: “The Old Stables, Stapleton, is within a popular village setting, while providing easy links to the county town and Midlands, together with excellent accessibility to state and private schools.  The property is marketed with a guide price of £425,000, for more information call Scott Kemsley on 01743 353511.

Please click here for further information.

 old stables main NEW





Wednesday, 09 November 2016 00:00

Last post makes first class opportunity

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Adaptable and capable of achieving on many levels, this town centre property is found off Knighton’s High Street, in Wylcwm Street. The Gables is an imposing Georgian property, formerly home to the Royal Mail Sorting Office, with accommodation on the first floor.

On the market with Balfours, agent, Scott Kemsley, says: “The Gables’ location in Knighton and more than 6,300 square feet capacity is exceptional. Add to this the architectural interest of high ceilings with coving, fireplaces and a high standard of finish and this property represents a unique prospect.

“Whether an investment opportunity or for commercial and residential use; there is also potential planning for two assisted use cottages: The Gables is an open canvas, with wonderful, large, character rooms.”

As the property is currently laid out, there are three offices on the ground floor, together with large packing room and warehouse; kitchen, cloakroom facilities and garaging for four vehicles. Below stairs cellars provide additional storage. The first floor provides a generous master bedroom with en-suite, three further bedrooms a new bathroom and an additional separate wc. There is a newly installed kitchen and gracious sitting room.

Scott Kemsley adds: “Knighton provides a gateway between South Shropshire and Wales, Ludlow is 18 miles while Shrewsbury and Hereford are 37 and 31 miles respectively. There is an excellent choice of state and independent schools within easy commute and of course local facilities are all to hand in Knighton.”

The Gables is marketed with a guide price of £575,000. For more information call Scott Kemsley at Balfours on 01743 353511.

Please click here for further details.




Gables Kitchen

Tuesday, 08 November 2016 00:00

White Paper – Hopes for Houses

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Suggestions that the planning process could be speeded up in the government’s pending Housing White Paper has been welcomed by Shropshire agent.

Head of sales at Balfours, Tim Main, says the White Paper, due this month, before the autumn budget, has been hailed as promising by the Rural Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS,) but more detail on delivery is needed.

Says Mr Main: “Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, is making all the right noises, but we desperately need progress. Despite the changes in planning and the house market over the last five years, the central message and Government thrust remains more houses and quickly.

Head of planning at Balfours, Justin Stevenson adds:  Key to swifter permissions is staff resource in planning departments, together with more streamlined permission around areas such as 106 agreements, which so often delay matters. Furthermore a development can be given outline planning permission for 50 houses, but are only able to build say 37 due to reserved matters.”

Government figures show that to June 2016 the planning system approved 277,000 new homes; at end of March 2016 11,147 of which were in Shropshire Council’s. However there were less than 1402 completions in the county during the same period.

Mr Main adds that throughout Shropshire there is a lack of residential property coming to the market – and a contributory factor must be the deficit of new build: “As always this is a geographical problem with the South East suffering the most,” he adds. 

The agents endorse RICS: “It isn’t just the planning, the whole process, developers, building materials and builders are all currently under resourced; the housing White Paper will, we hope, provide all round incentives,” says Mr Stevenson.


Friday, 04 November 2016 00:00

Rent Smart Wales Landlord Deadline Approaching

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Welsh landlords have less than three weeks to register to be compliant with the Rent Smart Wales scheme.

All landlords of Welsh properties must have registered by November 23 says Charlotte George, MARLA, Head of Lettings at Balfours. She advises: “It doesn’t matter where the landlord lives, if they own property in Wales which they rent out, they must register. One of the aims of the scheme is to eliminate rogue landlords.”

“The good news is this is an easy process and can be done online, so I would urge anyone who has residential property in Wales to make that first step – which costs £33.50 online” she adds.

However those who self-manage, or are involved in any day to day management, have additional hurdles to comply with. Any landlord who conducts for example, viewings or arranges maintenance must be licenced. Charlotte explains: “That means attending a one day training course, with a test and certificate at the end of it.”

She continues: “I think for many landlords Rent Smart Wales is likely to be a watershed moment. As agents we are dealing with the protocol every-day and understand the implications inside out. At Balfours we have more than 40 staff licensed – and are dealing with tenanted property on a daily basis.”

The Rent Smart Wales scheme will raise awareness of the respective rights and responsibilities of landlords, agents and tenants. As agents providing our services to landlords, we will ensure that they remain one hundred per cent compliant, while eliminating the administration, stress and hassle that can come with the rental property market. Charlotte George can be contacted on 01743 277069.

If you own a residential property in Wales that you rent out for more than £250 per annum on an Assured, Assured Shorthold or Regulated Tenancy, visit the Rent Smart Wales website to register as a landlord.

Tuesday, 01 November 2016 00:00

Barn enhancing roots and space

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Rooms of generous proportions set this three bedroom barn conversion in a league of its own. Number One Frodesley Hall Farm Barns is a beautifully presented grade II listed barn conversion.

The welcome is via a well-proportioned entrance hall, giving access to each ground floor room and the staircase. The living room exposes the barn’s roots, with both brick and timber tastefully enhanced. There is good natural light with glazing and French doors to two aspects, plus a wood-burner for those cosy nights.

The kitchen, dining room is in an L shape lending itself to dedicated areas and with French doors leading out to the garden. A downstairs cloakroom completes the ground floor. The master bedroom benefits from an en-suite and built in wardrobes, while the two bedrooms share a family bathroom offering bath and separate shower.

On the market with Balfours, agent Scott Kemsley says: “The hamlet of Frodesley is well placed, ten miles south of Shrewsbury and nine miles to Church Stretton. Longnor primary school is just three miles, with additional local facilities at Dorrington and Leebotwood. “Number One is part of a small high quality development in a fabulous rural location, offering opportunities for walking and other country pursuits.”

One Frodesley Barn is marketed with a guide price of £349,000. For more information call Scott Kemsley on 01743 353511.

Please click here for further details.

Frodesley main

Frodesley living

Frodesley bedroom

Frodesley garden

Tuesday, 01 November 2016 00:00

Timber framed character in heart of village

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Buyers seeking a charming property big on character should look no further than Brook House. This four bedroom, grade II timber framed house is situated in Minsterley, ten miles west of Shrewsbury.

Agent, Scott Kemsley of Balfours says: “Brook House is a gem of a property which dates back to the 17th century and has been thoughtfully and extensively restored optimising wonderful period features, whilst ensuring lifestyle comforts. Add to this its situation in the heart of the village - within walking distance to the primary school, village store and public house, lifestyle is further enhanced.”

The ground floor comprises three reception rooms - a bespoke kitchen diner, utility and cloak room and bathroom. On the first floor the master bedroom benefits from en-suite facilities, while fitted wardrobes feature in one of the three other bedrooms.

“Among Brook House’s period features are an inglenook fireplace, oak floorboards and exposed studwork and beams. A very precious bit of heritage is to be found in the dining room, which has a naïve painting showing,” Scott adds.

Outside provides a large garden and a wonderful character barn with garaging and significant internal space. Pontesbury is just 1.5 miles, while Telford is 24 miles. Brook House is marketed by Balfours with a guide price of £350,000. For more information call Scott Kemsley on 01743 353511.

Please click here for further details.





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