DEFRA'S plans to modernise and update agricultural tenancy legislation in England and Wales have been published. The Government hopes they will improve security for tenanted farmers, help boost productivity by removing barriers to investment and encouraging structural change in the sector. proposals include a right for Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 (AHA) tenants to assign a 25 year AHA tenancy to a third party, subject to a right of pre-emption in favour of their landlord. The assigned tenancy would have an open market rent

It also suggests removing the minimum age of 65 for when succession on retirement applications can be made under the AHA and removing AHA succession rights once the tenant reaches five years past the state pension age to encourage earlier succession

The introduction of short notices to quit for new Farm Business Tenancies of ten years or more, to incentivise their creation is also called for.

In drafting its proposals the Government has tried to balance the interests of both parties. A number have phase in periods so that both landlords and tenants can plan accordingly, whilst in some scenarios where tenants’ rights would be increased, a switch from an AHA to open market rental basis has been included. The consultation will run for 12 weeks across both countries until the July 2, 2019.

Farming minister, Robert Goodwill, said the measures will “breathe new life into the sector and step up farm productivity”. The CLA cautiously welcomed the proposals but questioned the timing, saying there is still “vital work still to be completed” in other areas.

Public access reform proposals have also caused concern in Wales.

Following consultation last year which received over 16,000 responses, the Welsh Government has announced how it intends to reform public access to land and water, in order to encourage activities such as organised games, camping, hang-gliding and para-gliding. A key change will be an assumption of non-motorised multi-use on access land and the public rights of way network, i.e. footpaths will be opened up to horse riders and cyclists. Restrictions on open access land will be reduced so that hang-gliding and para-gliding, bathing or using a vessel or sailboard on natural bodies of water will be possible. An independent Access Reform Group is being formed to recommend how these more significant changes to access rights should be implemented. Whilst minor amendments such as removing the anomaly that prevents organised cycling events on bridleways, and enforcement of placing dogs on a short fixed length lead in the vicinity of livestock at all times of year, will be progressed as soon as a suitable legislative vehicle can be identified. NFU Cymru Rural Affairs Board chairman, Hedd Pugh, expressed reservations. He said: “We want the public to enjoy access to the great outdoors, but this must be managed in a manner that is safe for the custodians of the land and access users”.