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02:44 on Saturday
5 June 2004

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Local accountant discusses foot & mouth concerns with Prince

Peterborough accountant Stephen Collins - partner in charge of the Peterborough office of accountancy firm Saffery Champness - has talked with the Prince of Wales about the concern felt by UK landowners about the government’s handling of the foot and mouth crisis.

Prince Charles was visiting the Country Land and Business Association’s (CLA) Annual Game Fair, which is partly sponsored by Saffery Champness, at Shuttleworth Old Warden Park, Bedfordshire, at the weekend (28 and 29 July 2001).

Stephen Collins of Saffrey Champness

Mr Collins talked to the prince about new research, unveiled at the Game Fair by Saffery Champness, which contains strong criticism from UK landowners and their agents.

Mr Collins said: "I talked with Prince Charles about the research which demonstrates the concern of those who believe that the government has failed to heed the recommendations of the 1969 Northumberland Report. This specifically warned against the burning of infected animals and stipulated that they be buried near to the site of infection."

Other key findings of Saffery Champness’ research include:

  • Landowners have been the driving force behind organising aid at a local level.

  • If hill farmers are forced to retire, large parts of the countryside could turn to wilderness and scrub.

  • A third of those interviewed said they were faced with tenant farmers leaving.

  • The majority of estates have given their tenant farmers additional aid by deferring rent payments.

  • Landowners have been badly hit by lost income from activities such as forestry, fishing and holiday cottages and also by substantially reduced income from tourist-based activities.

  • Few estate owners are easily able to identify potential funding sources from the European Commission or elsewhere.

  • The majority of estates confirm that diversification away from farming is essential for the future survival of the countryside.

Mr Collins said: “With fears about foot and mouth disease resurfacing over the last few days, our research gives a fascinating insight into how rural Britain has been affected by the crisis.

"Saffery Champness acts for some of the largest landed estates in the country and this report demonstrates how estate owners have taken on a strong leadership role in organising measures to deal with the crisis locally. These estate owners are providing exactly the kind of local leadership that Prince Charles has been calling for during the past few days.”

He added: “We hope that this report will be of use, as well as of interest, to all members of the UK’s rural community, whether or not they have been directly affected by foot and mouth. Although the crisis has had a devastating effect on the countryside, farming itself has been under pressure for some time now. Our research emphasises the need for farmers, estate owners and the government to re-examine the roles of farming and other rural businesses.”

Saffery Champness, whose clients own more than 2.5 million countryside acres, conducted this survey of leading estates from all over the UK.

July 2001




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