Land Management - does land need managing?
PUBLISHED: 11:42 24 February 2015 | UPDATED: 11:39 14 July 2015
Spreadsheets and soil, tax and tarmac, billing and barns.
It might be that some who read this musing have only a sketchy idea of the property world over and above estate agency and the perception of a land agent will invariably conjure up a vision of a man in a tweed jacket, complete with ever-present wellies, trusty dog and muddy Land Rover – much the same as a vet’s life could only be exactly the same as James Herriot’s…. The reality is somewhat more “business-like”.
The areas of expertise needed to do the day-to-day modern version of the job have become ever-more diverse, and yet everything we do is still based on traditional values much as the Estates we help to manage have traditions to uphold. When Strutt and Parker was first formed back in 1885 by Charles Strutt and Edward Parker, Land Management was the cornerstone of the business. 130 years later, the firm as a whole manages 1.5million acres of land, working with 450 clients on 600 estates.
The Chester Office manages 30,500 acres on 25 estates. On a daily basis, we take calls dealing with everything from dairy yields to tax planning, energy requirements to staffing needs, valuations to leaky roofs, vacant cottages needing new tenants to derelict barns needing planning permission – and everything in between! Staff can be found in the basement looking at maps dating from the 1800’s, or poring over technical drawings for up-to-the-minute lighting systems for a refurbishment; we can be asked for a valuation for a single property – or to deal with hundreds of valuations for an investment portfolio; we need experts in farm management, planning and development, building surveying, sporting and all the sporting rights, accountancy and property law in all its guises.
The preference would always be to be out and about – walking round field boundaries, visiting the landowners and tenants, inspecting farms and herds: not being deskbound! However, technological advances do mean that time spent in the office can still afford a bird’s eye view of estates, land and properties: programmes such as Google Earth mean that initial work can be done from the desktop rather than literally in the field; advances in mapping tools give huge detail before and after viewing land; CAD systems advance on an (almost) daily basis so that the Building Surveyors can view buildings in 2 and 3D.
The best part of the job are the people that we get to meet and to work with: from Estate owners to tenants, from the builders and plumbers who maintain estate properties to the Councils we deal with on planning and development; from housekeepers to gamekeepers; from forestry experts to energy companies – every single day is different. The buzz comes from putting all the knowledge we have access to to best use for each client at any given time.
The Chester team is incredibly lucky: staff are a blend of long-serving members with encyclopaedic knowledge of the area and its history and idiosyncrasies, to graduates with new qualifications, boundless energy and a new perspective. The team members range from land agents with 30 years’ experience to graduates, from farmers daughters to law students, from building surveyors to ex-musicians…
Everyone in the firm has access to all the latest legal and technical briefings, case law and relevant case studies and comparable evidence in 25 fields of expertise - all collated by a specialist research group: this gives us a constantly updated invaluable database from every desktop in our office. So if we don’t have an expert at hand, the knowledge is only a click of a button or a phone call away.
I have to show my complete ignorance – which you will note, I am saving until the last moment: when I started work in the Land Management Department, I only had an inkling as to what actually went on, day-to-day. My perception was that they would have to know about acreages, estate histories, woodland, milk yields, DEFRA and tenant cottages: it is so much more than that. The partners and their assistants have to have expertise in accounting, business strategy and reviews for estates; compliance, compulsory purchase, diversification; energy issues, forestry and woodland; highways, rights of way and public access; Landlord and tenant matters, mediation - arbitration – litigation; minerals and waste; professional valuations and property law; restrictive covenants and development opportunities; staff recruitment and strategic estate planning.
Oh. And Land Management.
Strutt & Parker, 37 Lower Bridge Street, Chester CH1 1RS 01244 354888