Agenda and minutes

Policy Development Committee - Thursday, 18th March, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: Virtual - Online meeting. View directions

Contact: Corporate and Community Services  01271 388253

Note: If you wish to attend the Committee please email by noon Tuesday 16th March 2021. This will be a virtual meeting and will be conducted in line with The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020. Please be aware that when you take part in a virtual meeting your phone number and/or your email address will be visible to councillors and officers of North Devon Council attending the committee but will not be visible to members of the public or others. This is required to allow you to be identified on Microsoft Teams, the software used by the Council to hold virtual committees, and will not be used for any other purpose by the Council. For more information, or to exercise your rights, please see 

No. Item


Virtual meetings procedure - briefing and etiquette

Chair to report.


The Chair advised the Committee and guests of the etiquette and procedure for virtual meetings.






There were no apologies for absence received.


To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 11th February 2021 (attached). pdf icon PDF 249 KB


RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 11th February 2021 (circulated previously) be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.



Declarations of Interest.

(Please telephone the Corporate and Community Services team to prepare a form for your signature before the meeting. Interests must be re-declared when the item is called, and Councillors must leave the room if necessary).


There were no declarations of interest declared.



Current Pressures Faced by the UK's Agriculture Industry.

To discuss the effects on the agricultural community of the implementation of the Agricultural Act 2020 and recent challenges from Brexit and Covid-19, with the view to make representation to the Government (for submission to the Secretary of Stateand representations to MPs).


This will include examining:

·       the viability of farming businesses

·       the impact on our landscape and environment 

·       the consequences for consumers of food

·       animal welfare.


Representatives from various areas of agricultural organisations to attend.


Members of Torridge District Council have also been invited.







The Chair opened the meeting and welcomed the guests from the agricultural sector, Councillors from Torridge District Council, and members of the public present.


He explained the reason for the meeting and that the aim was to “to gather expert evidence on the impact of the Agriculture Act 2020 on North Devon’s agricultural sector, for submission to the Secretary of Stateand representations to MPs. This would include examining:


·         the viability of farming businesses

·         the impact on our landscape and environment 

·         the consequences for consumers of food

·         animal welfare”


He welcomed each of the guests who then briefly outlined their roles.  He then invited the Committee to come forward to address the guests with their assigned questions.


The guests were representatives of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU, the South Molton Sheep Group, Exmoor Hill Farmers’ Network and the Rural Business School (part of the Cornwall College Group).


The Committee posed the following questions to the panel:

Question 1:  How do you see the agricultural sector of North Devon’s economy changing in the next five to ten years?


NFU:  It would be hard to predict. The general trend may result in fewer farm businesses but the speed this could happen may depend on policy. Some farms may amalgamate or there may be an increase in part time farmers. The current 65% of farmers who had diversified could increase. It would be supply and demand driven.  There may be a change in the sectors. The impact of the drive to become net zero and how farmers see themselves may change.  The nature of farming businesses could become more complicated.


Rural Business School: it would relate to the demographic. The majority of Devon was grazing livestock and dairy. Government reductions to Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to zero would affect this. Grazing was more likely to make a financial loss each year and only the subsidy would be received for them. They would need to dramatically diversify and increase their income from environment schemes.


South Molton Sheep Group:  The sector would need to be aware that over the next five years there would not be a replacement for the basic payment. People needed to appreciate this. There would be hardship in the industry over the next five years.

Question 2:  What do you think are the main benefits the Agriculture Act 2020 brings to farmers in North Devon? How could the Act’s implementation be improved?


Rural Business School: His own opinion was that the Act was trying to get farmers to be sustainable and resilient but the down side was that there was no coherent plan. It would create uncertainty and decrease the number of individual farms – perhaps creating fewer, larger ones. The landscape was centuries old and this would change the landscape of farming. If no plan was in place it could cause uncertainty and trauma in the industry. In New Zealand (NZ) the price of beef and lamp went down and farmers stopped farming.  There was significant mental  ...  view the full minutes text for item 94.