Procurement · 3 February 2016

How affordable land for sale in the countryside is sparking a rural enterprise revolution

rural enterprise
In some parts of the UK almost one third of land purchases were by non-farmers in 2015

A combination of falling land values in rural areas and increasingly unaffordable prices in cities has spurred an increase in the number of startups based in the British countryside, according to new research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The survey shows that some 25 per cent of rural land purchases in the UK were made by non-farmers in the second half of 2015 – with property developers making up just one per cent of buyers. This trend was most pronounced in the South East, where almost one third of land purchases were by non-farmers.

“Startup businesses do not have to be confined to the trendy streets of East London, Britain’s countryside has a great deal to offer young entrepreneurs. Market conditions appear to be encouraging a wave of new types of rural business, and help must be given to support this trend further if our countryside communities are to thrive,” said RICS head of policy Jeremy Blackburn.

“New entrants to farming businesses continue to face barriers, but at RICS we are currently working with the Fresh Start Land Enterprise Centre (FSLEC) developing a pilot ‘matching service’ for potential land entrepreneurs, helping to bring together those looking for new opportunities in agriculture with those who have land and rural real estate to let,” he added.

Challenges for SMEs in rural locations include that of accessing fast internet. Additional research published in December 2015 revealed that only 68 per cent of SMEs had access to the fastest broadband speeds – and the latest figures available show that the average rural speed is just 13 megabits per second (mbps) compared to 27 mbps in urban locations.

In his 2015 budget, chancellor George Osborne pledged a commitment to improving rural broadband speeds in order to help small firms based outside of cities thrive. The government hopes that 95 per cent of the country will have access to “super-fast” broadband by 2017.

He also wrote an article with Elizabeth Truss, the secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the Telegraph in August 2015, in which they promised: “This government is determined to support the millions that already choose a rural life and those that are joining them.

“For rural areas, we want better internet and mobile phone communications, better transport, better schools, better skills, better housing, better business growth and better local government.”

If your rural business suffers from slow broadband, check out this guide to find out what you can do to improve it.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

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