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Nurturing support for change in the countryside

At a time of significant change, challenge and opportunity for the British countryside, estate owners, land managers and rural businesses are looking for ways to future-proof their operations.

The Estate of the Future: Land and Business Insights, a recent report by Strutt & Parker, explained how subsidy reform and cuts to Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) will see net profits fall by as much as half by 2028 for some rural businesses. Many will turn to the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme to recoup some of what’s lost from BPS.

Add in Covid recovery plans, Brexit, and the Government’s climate change targets – a “mosaic of change” – landowners and estates are considering the generation of new revenue flows and diversification, from tourism to solar power, alongside the long-term stewardship of the land in their care to remain relevant and sustainable. “Resilience will be at the heart of the successful rural estate of the future,” the report explains.

Estates are in a unique position to make landscape-scale changes to significantly benefit the natural environment, local communities, wider society and the rural economy. However, alongside the many opportunities are an equal number of challenges.

Explaining to the neighbours and local communities how and why things must change isn’t always easy, and people living in a rural idyll are generally resistant to change, especially when a planning application is involved.

What was once an informal chat over the farm gate, must now be a sustained programme of engagement and education; raising awareness around general estate activities, listening to concerns and ideas, building trusted relationships and, ultimately, winning support.

A rural estate which understands how it is perceived and is prepared to engage proactively with the local community to understand its needs, desires and concerns will put itself in a stronger position moving forward. – The Estate of the Future: Land and Business Insights.

Whether it’s managing the built or natural environment, effective communications, through the right channels, helps develop an understanding of what you do, and, most importantly, why you are doing it.  By taking charge of your own story and messages, engaging, listening and explaining, there are no surprises and no misunderstandings.

The Strutt & Parker report highlights a proactive approach to communication having paid-off for the Leys Estate in Aberdeenshire, where a voluntary consultation for a proposed road near a housing development initially raised 700 objections. After listening to community feedback, the road was re-designed with input from the local council. A further community consultation on the revised proposals resulted in just one letter of complaint.

People want to feel listened to and understood. They want to be reassured that their concerns and priorities have been acknowledged and properly considered.

The work of estates is multi-faceted and communicating such complex business activities with clarity is key. As specialists in communications for land owners and estates, we understand how to support the broad and often complex range of activities and issues you face, and can help you to deliver your business objectives with integrity. You can read more in our case studies.

To discuss your company’s communications requirements, please contact Annette Richman on 01392 466733 or email Annette.Richman@korcommunications.co.uk.

Read the full Strutt & Parker report here.