THERE has been a huge uptick in property demand – some 20% year on year in the last two years – according to Baird Lumsdens' Jennifer Campbell.

Baird Lumsden, the specialist rural department of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors, believes this to be not only from developers and builders in every corner of Scotland in which its agency operates, but also in approaches from farmers and landowners expressing renewed interest in the disposal of assets.

Ms Campbell, the firm's head of rural agency, explained: "It is of more than academic interest to try to discern what is behind this upswelling of activity, but first of all the question should be addressed: what exactly is strategic land and why is it such an esoteric subject?

"The simple answer is that strategic land is any land or property which has not yet reached its development potential, and for which planning permission, consent or allocation is needed before it becomes a viable proposition.

"It is strategic either because of its location – for example, across an access route – or by reason of its relation to existing developed areas, for instance, next to an existing housing development. It should be stressed that developments do not have to be huge – they could be as simple as, for instance, a farm steading conversion."

She believes that there could be two realistic views about the increase in interest and activity in exploring the potential of land at the moment, one rather pessimistic and one more optimistic and forward looking.

In the first scenario, there is the move towards a more sustainable and carbon friendly agriculture sector, coupled with the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit and its impact in markets and subsidies. This combination of pressures may be persuading farmers and landowners to offload assets.

Alternatively, it could be viewed as a sign of confidence in the economy as it emerges from the depredations of Covid, allied to the national impetus to increase the housing stock as well as a more benign and flexible planning environment.

Given that the time spans involved in promoting land through the planning system – in some cases up to 10 years – it is within the bounds of possibility that some land holders have been considering disposals, but simply have not spoken to the right people about it.

Ms Campbell continued: "This is a major issue, given the number of interested parties involved in unlocking the value of a parcel of land. They range from farmers, owners, institutions and charities to businesses, investors, developers, builders or promoters.

"Advising them are phalanxes of lawyers, planning consultants, accountants, surveyors, planners, architects, landscape designers and funders. The key figure for reconciling these competing interests and negotiating a deal is often a Strategic Land Surveyor.

"Depending on the status of the land – ie. if it is already within a statutory planning framework – a conditional contract with a fixed price may be suitable. But more common is an Option Agreement where the landowner grants the developer the option to buy the land at market value if and when permissions are granted."

Recently Promotion Agreements have played a part in the market, where the owner and a promoter create a marketing strategy when permission is granted. This course of action fully exposes the asset to the market, but promotional costs can very quickly mount up to the point where they significantly erode the landowner’s profit.

The first step in any potential Strategic Land sale is a visit from a specialist surveyor – a service which, in the case of Baird Lumsden, incurs no initial cost.

Asset holders such as farmers should also bear in mind that, even if there is no discernible development value in their land, there is still agricultural value and a pool of willing buyers whose insatiable demand for land means that prices achieved are still on a steep upward trajectory.