Agriculture Act 2020: England tidies up AHA succession rules
Earlier this year, we considered the reforms that had been made by the Agriculture Act 2020 (the 2020 Act) to the landlord and tenant regime in our article Agriculture Act 2020: Landlord and Tenant Reforms - Now and Later.
We noticed that the changes in the 2020 Act to that part of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 (the 1986 Act) which deals with succession, resulted in a difference in the suitability criteria between succession applications following death and those following retirement.
The 2020 Act provides for new regulations to be made by the Secretary of State (or the Welsh Ministers) which will abolish the commercial unit test in England and Wales and will set out the new business competency test. Strangely, however, the factors set out in section 39(8) of the 1986 Act, to which a Tribunal must have regard, when assessing suitability on a succession application following death were removed with immediate effect. However these immediate changes were not reflected in the sections that deal with suitability on an application following a retirement notice.
Clearly that was not intended. The Agricultural Holdings (Transitional Provisions) (England) Regulations 2021 came into force on 17 March 2021 to iron out the inconsistency. This means that section 39(8) of the 1986 Act, which sets out the suitability requirements for applications following death, will continue to apply. These will only be revoked when the new business competency test comes into force.
The regulations that came into force last week apply in England only so the disparity will continue in Wales until regulations to correct the position are brought forward by the Welsh Government.