The Road to Net Zero: What it means for farmers and landowners

by Rhona Booth, Senior Associate

In an era defined by the urgent need to address climate change, the UK and Scottish Governments have emerged as global leaders in the race towards a sustainable future. With a commitment to environmental responsibility, both governments have set ambitious Net Zero targets signalling a transformative shift towards a low-carbon, resilient economy.

In Scotland, farmers and landowners hold the key to delivering many of the sector targets, specifically around carbon offsetting, sustainable farming practices, afforestation projects and initiatives to enhance biodiversity.

The Scottish Government also continues to invest in and promote the development of renewable energy projects, aiming to generate a substantial portion of the country’s energy from clean sources.

In this article I explore the financial opportunities around the strategies and initiatives employed by the Scottish Government to fulfil its commitments to achieving Net Zero.

Solar Power: One of the most promising avenues for landowners is the integration of solar energy into the national grid. Scotland’s government has been actively encouraging the adoption of renewable energy, and solar power is no exception.

Developers are actively pursuing solar opportunities across Scotland with hotspots on the East Coast where irradiance levels are highest. Bell Ingram are acting for numerous land owners, negotiating exclusivity agreements, Heads of Terms and assisting landowners and their legal advisors during the option and lease process.  Lease terms are typically 40 years with rentals significantly greater than those generated from agriculture making hosting a solar development and attractive proposition. Bell Ingram will negotiate the best deal with our knowledge of the market and expertise on practical matters of development. The developer will meet the cost of professional fees. Although the connection date to the grid can be up to a decade away due to the constraints on the electricity network, developers are keen to secure land at the present time via an option agreement.

Battery Storage: While solar (and wind power) are integral to the renewable energy landscape, they come with inherent challenges related to intermittency and grid stability. This is where battery storage systems play a crucial role. By storing excess energy generated during peak times and releasing it when demand is high, battery storage helps balance the grid, ensuring a reliable and stable power supply.

Landowners can enter into lease agreements with energy developers for the use of their land to host battery storage facilities. These agreements typically involve regular rental payments, providing a steady income stream for landowners without requiring active involvement in the day-to-day operations.

The land take for battery storage is relatively small, four to 20 acres making this opportunity as an addition to the farming business and income stream. The proximity of a substation is a prerequisite to hosting a battery storage scheme.

Carbon Off Setting: The financial opportunities for landowners in the realm of carbon offsetting, particularly through woodland creation schemes, are vast. However, it is essential for stakeholders to approach this market with a commitment to sustainability and ethical practices. By carefully navigating the complexities of acquisition, market dynamics, and ecological considerations, landowners can play a pivotal role in combatting climate change while reaping the financial rewards of responsible carbon offset initiatives.

Electricity Infrastructure: SSE’s massive £10 billion investment in electricity infrastructure is geared towards enhancing and expanding Scotland’s electricity infrastructure. This includes the development of renewable energy projects, grid upgrades, and the deployment of cutting-edge technology. Landowners situated in proximity to these projects stand to benefit significantly.

One of the primary opportunities lies in leasing land for renewable energy projects such as wind farms or solar installations. SSE’s commitment to increasing renewable capacity provides an ideal environment for landowners to generate steady income through long-term leases.

Beyond renewable energy projects, SSE’s investment includes significant upgrades to the electricity grid. It is important for landowners to engage early with SSE to ensure that their views are taken into account as far as possible in the design of the scheme. New pylons are the unfortunate requirement to secure renewable opportunities across the country and SSE and the Scottish Government has strong statutory powers the roll out their infrastructure programme.

Low-Carbon Hydrogen Economy: The Acorn Project, based in North East Scotland, is a groundbreaking initiative that aims to deliver low-carbon energy solutions. At its core, the project focuses on repurposing existing oil and gas infrastructure to support the development of a low-carbon hydrogen economy.

One crucial aspect of the Acorn Project is the need for gas transportation to the St Fergus terminal and those landowners situated along the gas transportation route to St Fergus have a unique chance to play a crucial role in this transformative journey. By exploring servitude agreements, lease arrangements, and actively participating in community development, it is envisaged that landowners can maximise the financial benefits while contributing to a more sustainable and resilient energy future.

Top Tips:

  • While the financial opportunities are abundant, it is crucial for landowners to navigate the regulatory landscape effectively.

  • Understanding planning permissions, environmental impact assessments, and community engagement requirements is essential for a successful partnership with energy infrastructure developers.

  • Seeking professional advice can help landowners make informed decisions and ensure compliance with regulations.

To find out how Bell Ingram can help your rural business make the most of these opportunities phone 01738 621 121 to speak to Rhona Booth or one of our Rural Land Management team.

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Rhona Booth

Rhona Booth

Senior Associate, MRICS
Rural Land Management
Tel: 01307 462516

About: Rhona is a highly experienced RICS Chartered Surveyor and Registered Valuer working across Perthshire and Angus advising on all aspects of estate and farm management, including landlord and tenant negotiations, telecommunication mast agreements, utility projects and CPO compensation claims. In addition, Rhona can undertake a range of rural valuations for a variety of purposes as a Registered Valuer. Rhona joined Bell Ingram in 2020 and has over 20 years’ experience in the sector. Interests: Rural Land Management, Valuations, Utilities, Renewable Energy, Agricultural Tenancy Advisor, MRICS Registered Valuer.

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    The business of carbon net zero

    There’s no doubt that climate change and nature decline are the big buzzwords within the UK’s rural land sector as both Holyrood and Westminster push to meet their Carbon Net Zero targets by 2045 and 2050 respectively.

    How we address these issues is placing new demands on the landowners and land managers who, as custodians of the landscape, must find a balance between securing the natural environment for future generations while supporting the multiple objectives the land must meet.

    While the growing number of government targets has opened up new opportunities for the land-based economy, the application of carbon and ecosystem investment and natural capital concepts is still in its infancy and further complicated by different legislation, aims and targets both sides of the border.

    At Bell Ingram we believe that a practical land management strategy is the key to navigating this fast-developing landscape and unlocking associated opportunities.

    Woodland Carbon

    Carbon in forestry is the hot topic at the moment. Not only does planting trees help to combat global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide, but it has the potential to generate a significant additional income for landowners.

    In essence, this is because Woodland Carbon (and Peatland) is tradable and has a value. Carbon sold when trees are planted (or Peatland restored) can provide landowners with additional income. And verified carbon can be used by business to offset their UK carbon emissions.

    The Woodland Carbon Code (WCC), which is administered by Scottish Forestry, is the quality assurance standard for woodland creation projects in the UK and generates independently verified carbon units. Backed by government, the forest industry and carbon market experts, the Code is unique in providing woodland carbon units right here in the UK.

    Bell Ingram has an established track record of delivering Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) projects, successfully implementing both native woodland and commercial conifer schemes ranging from a few hectares to many hundreds.

    From woodland creation through to long-term forest management and timber harvesting, our carbon team can offer a comprehensive range of environmental services and have the expertise to ensure the carbon opportunity in your new investment is developed to maximise potential.

    Peatland Restoration

    Peatland is an excellent carbon store. The hydrology of peatland, in its natural waterlogged state, prevents carbon within organic matter at the surface oxidising and being released as carbon dioxide. Restoration is crucial as degraded peatland has been contributing to rising carbon emissions.

    While woodland creation carbon work is already well established, Peatland Restoration is less advanced and although there are many schemes (and even more planned) the general belief is that there will be major changes to come in order to make this more appealing/available in the future.

    Like the Woodland Carbon Code, the Peatland Code is a voluntary certification standard designed to provide assurances to carbon market buyers that the climate benefits being sold are real, quantifiable, additional and permanent.

    The Code was developed in 2015 and is managed by the IUCN Peatland Programme. The reduction in carbon emissions by peatland restoration is quantified, validated, and verified in a similar way to the Woodland Carbon Code.

    Get in touch

    Done right, these new natural capital markets offer exciting opportunities. However, carbon funding is a fast-moving and developing area and we strongly advise both buyers and sellers of carbon to take professional advice.

    Please contact Partner and Head of Carbon Mike Thompson at Bell Ingram for more information. Tel. 01738 621 121 or email


    Article posted on 10/02/2022

    Biodiversity Net Gain and its impact on future infrastructure and housing projects 

    Biodiversity Net Gain is an approach to development which aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than beforehand. Implemented correctly, it should have a positive ecological impact, delivering improvements through habitat creation or enhancement.

    It’s by no means a new concept, in fact Biodiversity Net Gain has been best practice among responsible infrastructure companies, developers and landowners for some time now. Bell Ingram, for example, has been working for a major utilities client on a project to provide biodiversity enhancement for a major pipeline development in the North-West of England. Our land agents have been tasked with identifying and acquiring nearby land with the potential for habitat creation and enhancement. The project started in 2020 with completion scheduled for 2030.

    It’s worth noting that Biodiversity Net Gain has been a part of planning policy in England through the National Planning Policy Framework for a couple of years, although it has not been widely adopted. 

    However, the principle has now become enshrined in law as one of the more ambitious provisions of the new Environment Act 2021. This legal requirement, which applies only to England*, requires new developments to provide a 10% Biodiversity Net Gain to be maintained for a period of at least 30 years in order to secure planning permission.

    While this condition has no legal effect yet (and will be brought into force through secondary legislation at a date not yet known), the provisions are far reaching and complex.

    In essence, Biodiversity Net Gain means developers in England must ensure their projects deliver biodiversity improvements to meet the required 10% increase. To do this, they must evidence a project’s final Biodiversity Net Gain value using the specified Defra biodiversity metric if they want their plans to get a green light.

    To achieve Biodiversity Net Gain, proposals must follow the ‘mitigation hierarchy’ which compels planning applicants to avoid harm in the first instance, then mitigate or finally compensate for losses on-site, off-site or through a combination of the two solutions. These measures will be implemented in planning conditions.

    *The Biodiversity Net Gain principles set out in the Environment Act only applies to England, but the Scottish Government has committed to bring forward a new biodiversity strategy in October and its delivery plan six months later.

    With a background in environmental management, Ben Hewlett is a Land Agent based in Bell Ingram’s Northwich office where he works on behalf of our utilities clients.

    Article posted on 10/02/2022