County council being recommended to make agricultural land key part of investment plans

Farm land across the UK could be on the shopping list for Cambridgeshire County Council's pension fund.

Although the pension portfolio doesn't include any of the 33,000 acres now owned by the county council, the team running the fund believe Cambridgeshire's expertise can be put to good use.

David Nuttycombe, head of strategy and estates, will tell the pensions committee: "In terms of market turmoil, as has been the case recently, land investments have performed better than equities.

"Investment in agricultural land has traditionally been seen as steady but unexciting when compared with equities and other investments but a safe haven in times of trouble."

He believes "investment trends" will respond to concerns about growing populations and the increasing demand for food and bio fuels and climate change impacting agricultural land and its productivity.

Cambridgeshire County Council's in house successful management of agricultural land, with a proven track record, could be tapped into "to manage the operational activities" says Mr Nuttycombe.

He points out that UK agricultural land has shown an "attractive and stable return" over the last ten years.

"There are sound reasons for concluding that the land market and investment return will remain strong," he will tell the pensions committee on March 9.

Options for consideration include buying traditional estates which are already let out, acquiring other let estates from other county councils, buying freehold land for short term letting pending its release for development, buying land next to existing county council holdings, or any combination of the above.

"Whichever option is selected, clear investment criteria must be determined at the outset," says Mr Nuttycombe. This will include threshold rates for acquisition.

www.wisbech-standard, 02 Mar 2010

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