It may be a long-established and highly regarded profession, but that doesn’t mean rural land agency should not move with the times.

For Andrew Samuel, who set up Samuel & Son in Heathfield, East Sussex, ten years ago, it is the need to look forward and continue to provide the firm’s clients with new and innovative ideas that is the main driving force behind the business.
“The next ten years? They will be about responding to continual change and adapting to meet our client’s needs,” he commented. “We share a fundamental ambition to be relevant, current and determined to provide added value to the rural businesses we work alongside.”

It is a measure of Andrew’s ambition that while celebrating his first ten years in business, he remains determined to look ahead rather than back. With that in mind he has been focusing on putting together a young team that will be able to take the business forward, not just into the future but into new directions.

In Andrew’s view, the need to create a benefit for the client’s bottom line is key. “We are commercial, land-based surveyors and agents – with the emphasis on commercial,” he explained. “We look at land with a view to its potential rather than just seeing it as it is currently.”

That ability to think more broadly has proved invaluable at Heathfield Park, a 350-acre estate on which Samuel & Son advises the current owner.

“It is a beautiful site, but the land at Heathfield Park is simply not suited to farming, and previous owners have been unable to make it profitable,” Andrew said. “When our client said he needed the estate to generate some income I had to think carefully about the best way to meet that challenge.”

What Andrew did was go back through the history books, where he discovered that previous owners of Heathfield Park included John ‘Mad Jack’ Fuller, Squire of Brightling, who lived from 1757 to 1834 and manufactured cannons for the Board of Ordnance at an ironworks in Heathfield.

“Mad Jack used the estate at Heathfield Park for energy,” Andrew explained. “He used the timber for the furnaces that smelted the iron ore and he used the water in cascading lakes to create hydro power that drove his sawmills and pulled timber up from the woodlands to where he needed it.

“That made me realise that with energy just as important now as it was then – perhaps more so given the emphasis on reducing carbon emissions – we should look at the potential of the park to produce energy in the 21st century, much as it did in the 18th.”

As a result, Samuel & Son is putting forward a community energy scheme that will bring together solar PV, wind and hydroelectric systems to allow Heathfield Park to deliver renewable energy around the clock.

“Heathfield is at the end of the line for electricity and so having a local, renewable, supply at the heart of the community has to be good for the area, and it will at the same time provide an income for Samuel & Sons’ client at Heathfield Park,” said Andrew, who is also looking at other developments including creating a function suite at the foot of the iconic Gibraltar Tower folly.

Getting the community on board with the one Megawatt scheme has been an important factor, and one that Andrew has tackled by inviting local groups, schools, the chamber of commerce and others to visit Heathfield Park – which is a private home and not generally open to the public – and learn about the plans.

The plans for the scheme include installing monitors in local schools so that pupils can see how much renewable energy is being generated at Heathfield Park as part of their studies on environmental issues.


Working with people and helping them to achieve their ambitions is a significant part of what motivates Andrew, who missed those closer connections when he began his land agency career as a chartered surveyor with a major national firm.
Now he makes the most of the personal touch – and has built up a young team that he believes is similarly personable. “This is a people business, and I expect my team to go out there and generate work, so their personality and ability to get on with people is high on my list of priorities,” he commented.

That team now consists of Dan Page, who started off doing work experience with Andrew and is now a director, William Fraser, who will shortly be taking his RICS Assessment of Professional Competence, and Sam Dutton, who joined in June and has brought new skills to the firm in the shape of commercial and financial knowledge.

For Andrew’s part, he has quickly become the ‘go-to’ professional for a particular niche market, with a number of high profile private individuals on his books.

“They like the fact that they can make one phone call and get straight through to the person they want rather than being handled by any one member of a larger and more impersonal team,” he said. “That goes for all our clients, whatever the size of their business or the type of work they ask us to help with.”

“We have grown over the past ten years but we are still at a size where we can and do offer a high level of professional service in a friendly and personal manner. This is at the core of our business and I am sure it is one of the reasons for its success.”
Andrew’s wife Michelle also works for the firm, and while she is invaluable in her professional role, perhaps her biggest contribution to date was in bringing Dan on board.

“I knew Dan’s family, and so when I was asked if he could do work experience with us in 2007 after he had completed a geography degree, I was happy to take him on for a few weeks,” Andrew recalled.

“He was clearly very skilled, but he didn’t have the right qualifications to join the firm. When I was discussing that with Michelle, though, she had an impressively straightforward answer, which was for us to take him on and put him through the right training.”

So that was what Andrew did, with the result that a delighted Dan completed a remote estate management course at Reading University before going on to become a chartered surveyor and agricultural valuer. “He’s now more qualified than I am,” Andrew added with a smile.

It is perhaps appropriate that Samuel & Son’s tenth anniversary coincides with the introduction of the Basic Payments Scheme, since it was the launch of the Single Farm Payment a decade ago that prompted him to set up the firm.

After beginning his career with Strutt & Parker in 1996, he then worked with Charles Clark & Co, now part of the BTF Partnership.

“I saw the introduction of the Single Farm Payment as an opportunity not just to help farmers with an important and complex operation but to talk to them about the broader context of their enterprise.

“When you sit down every year with a landowner in order to tackle such a fundamental part of their operation, it can open up lots of other doors by giving them a chance to discuss other ideas. In the first year I helped farmers complete 50 applications. It’s now double that, and we have everything in place to help with the transition to the Basic Payments Scheme.

“The grant is fundamental to the way landowners operate. It underpins incomes and drives rent, budget and profitability,” said Andrew. “Not only does it make a big difference to the operation of the farm, there are penalties if you get it wrong. That’s why it’s important to take professional advice.”

It’s also important to spend time listening to the farmer’s plans and discussing future options, something that can create added value for the client as well as more work for the growing firm. “I encourage my team to ask questions, listen to the answers and make sure they understand the client’s hopes and aspirations so we can deliver a rounded product that meets their needs,” Andrew added.

As an example of the long-term working relationships that Samuel & Son likes to forge, Dan Page highlighted the planning work he has led on a 250-acre East Sussex farm following a simple Single Payment Scheme submission in 2008.

“Three years ago we won permission for a 5,000 square feet general purpose barn and then last year we were granted permission for another livestock barn and a farm worker’s log cabin on a three-year temporary licence.

“We have been working with the farmer on improving the profitability of the farm since 2008, and so 2018, when we are confident that the local planning authority will recognise that the new dwelling is integral to the long-term success of the operation, will mark ten years of professional support.”

While Samuel & Son likes to deliver a rounded product, Andrew knows that the firm can’t do everything, which is why he works closely with specialist surveyors, solicitors, accountants and other professionals to make sure that the firm is delivering the best possible professional advice. “We don’t try to do everything; we are part of the rural economy and we bring in the experts we need,” he said.

After taking on Dan, whose parents farm at Scords Farm, Toys Hill, Andrew had difficulty finding the right calibre of people from college because he felt they did not have the right people skills or commercial focus.

He looked closer to home, which is how he came to take on William, whose parents Adam and Lisa Fraser operate a bespoke catering and holiday accommodation business just outside Egerton in Kent. William looks after much of the rural development grant and Basic Payment work for the firm and expects to qualify in November.

Sam is also local but pursued a financial career in London and Malaysia before joining Samuel & Son nine months ago. His family runs a dairy farm in Balcombe, West Sussex, with father Pete being a former county NFU chairman.
Completing the team are Jen Dumelow, who has worked as Andrew’s – and then Dan’s – PA from day one and who will be retiring at the end of the year, and Rhiannon Rosser, who looks after the firm’s marketing and events.

“Looking forward I am certain that Samuel & Son has the personnel to take us confidently into our next decade,” said Andrew. “By bringing in the right people and working with farmers and landowners to help their businesses grow I am determined to create a long-term future that will ensure we celebrate many more anniversaries.”