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Law firm Thrings explores the future of farming as agriculture seminar returns

14 November 2023
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Duncan Sigournay

The Future of Farming was the topic of this year’s Thrings’ Annual Agriculture Seminar, with discussion firmly on what the future holds for the sector steeped in tradition but continually pushing for innovation.

Lawyers from the firm’s agriculture, planning, corporate and private client teams took to the stage in front of a crowd of more than 200 representatives from farming businesses and a wealth of other rural organisations, leading poignant discussions on the biggest topics currently facing farms, as well as what is on the horizon.

Held once again at the prestigious Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, this year’s seminar opened with a speech by keynote speaker Colin Smart of the Environmental Farmers Group, who highlighted the impact farmers can play in protecting and enhancing nature on their land.

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This was followed by a fireside chat with Thrings Agriculture lawyers Mark Charter, Jonathan Thompson and Harvey Davies who discussed natural capital and the environmental options that can be considered for farmland, as well as how such agreements could impact the future of the farm, land value and succession.

Alex Madden, Fred Quartermain, Rebecca Stanton and Kiran Maher from the firm’s planning and environment team gave a details presentation on the planning opportunities open to the rural economy, including through proposed changes to permitted development rights, biodiversity net gain and nutrient neutrality.

The team also covered the relevance of new and forthcoming legislation such as the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Planning for the future was at the heart of a talk by private client expert Andrew Morris, corporate associate Conor Melvin and agricultural land specialist Jake Wennen, with a talk on whether to pass on or sell the farm and advice on how to navigate the complexities of both possibilities to ensure a smooth outcome.

Handing over the farm, however, does not always go smoothly and can cause significant conflict where promises are seemingly made and then broken. Examining the concept of proprietary estoppel, agricultural litigator Richie Rees explored what successful claimants can win and how this has been impacted by Thrings’ high profile success in the Supreme Court last year.

Closing the event, the audience were given a preview of Thrings’ latest video, showcasing the outstanding work to reintroduce nature to farming by the Pig Shed Trust.

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Duncan Sigournay (pictured), head of the Thrings’ Agriculture team and chair of the Annual Agriculture Seminar, said: “Farming is one of the oldest occupations in the world but is one that is forever fighting to innovate and diversify as costs rise and revenues fall.

"It, however, does have a bright future and it was great to hear from our speakers today on the emerging opportunities.

“It was fantastic to have another full house for this year’s seminar which we are proud to see remains a firm fixture on the calendar for the agriculture sector. Accurate and up-to-date professional advice is vital for the survival and success of the farming world and we are delighted to have been able to share our expertise with such an engaged and like-minded audience.”


Peter Davison is deputy editor of The Business Magazine. He has spent his life in journalism – doing work experience in newsrooms in and around Bristol while still at school, and landing his first job on a local newspaper aged 19. By 28 he was the youngest newspaper editor in the country.

An early advocate of online news, he spent the first years of the 2000s telling his bosses that the internet posed both the biggest opportunity and greatest threat to the newspaper industry and the art of journalism. He was right on both counts.

Since 2006 he has enjoyed a career as a freelance journalist. He lives in rural Wiltshire with one wife, two children, and three cats.

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