Place North West – Cumbria Development Update

Associate director, Rachel Bagshaw, presents keynote summary of the Cumbria Property & Land Market in transition

Last week, I presented a detailed summary of an uncertain Cumbrian property and land market in post-Covid and post-Brexit transition.

Nearly 100 delegates from the property and business communities attended the Place North West event at the Castle Green Hotel in Kendal, to share and debate key issues and topics central to the region’s development, including: recruiting and retaining skilled employees; promoting the ‘Cumbria’ brand; the lack of affordable housing; planning issues limiting home building; the future of the ‘energy coast’; and transport and connectivity.

My main focus was on the state of the county’s key property and land market, which makes a major contribution to Cumbria’s £11bn economy.

Cumbria is still a largely rural county with a relatively small population and development is critical to the region’s future. Right now, the property market is in transition from the highs of the pandemic spike, and the land market is adjusting to the very significant post-Brexit changes in Government farming policy. We are seeing a post-Covid correction in residential property prices and we’ve yet to see the full impact of interest rates rises, but the Cumbria and South Lakes market is still strong.

In terms of land, in the development market we’re seeing cooling prices especially for smaller sites, partly due to the steep rise in build costs. There is a shortage of labour in the construction industry, the planning process is slow and regulation is increasing all the time.

In the agriculture sector there is growing competition for different kinds of land use, which is pushing prices to record levels. Under the new environment-focused UK Government farming policy, the traditional use of land for food production is being challenged by the move towards regenerative farming and conservation. Farmers and landowners are being encouraged to diversify, and changes to grant support are driving them to find alternative income streams including renewable energy generation and/or storage, and environmental schemes such as tree planting, biodiversity net gain and nutrient neutrality, which contribute to the Carbon Net Zero target.

This is a very interesting period for the Cumbrian property and land markets, but the underlying property market remains as strong as before, and our farmers and landowners are responding brilliantly to the challenge of change.