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Use the expertise of rural businesses to help battle climate change, says new CLA branch chairman

THE PASSION, knowledge and goodwill of those working in the rural sector can help the country tackle climate change, the new chairman of The Country Land and Business Association’s Buckinghamshire branch has said.

Charlie van Exter replaced Robert Ruck-Keene at a committee meeting last week, in one of the most important rural roles in the county. The CLA is a membership organisation representing farmers, landowners and rural businesses of all sizes and types.

Looking ahead to the coming year, Mr van Exter said navigating the planning system will remain a challenge for many rural businesses, while natural capital and the role estates can play in tackling climate change will become even more central to the industry.

He added: “The CLA is a great platform through which the rural economy can showcase the diverse and significant value it adds to the wider economy and society as a whole.

“The rural economy brings together a phenomenally diverse group of subject matter experts whose passion, knowledge and goodwill should be leveraged by the wider economy as it looks to tackle climate change and reach net zero.”

Robert Ruck-Keene is stepping down as chair of the Buckinghamshire CLA branch at the end of his three-year term.

Mr van Exter said farmers and rural businesses are facing “exciting but somewhat daunting times” post-Brexit, as the UK transitions away from EU funding towards its own support schemes.

“There remain lots of unknowns, and with apparent policy U-turns being announced, a sense of unease prevails to a degree. That being said, there is lots of good work happening on the ground both in terms of technological advances and efforts to drive biodiversity, soil health and counter climate change.”

Mr van Exter grew up on the family farm, and plays an active role in managing its enterprises in the Chilterns. They farm 750 acres, mostly arable, through a contract farming agreement at Boswells Farm near Wendover, and manage both residential and commercial lets.

Having begun his career at HSBC then Barclays, Mr van Exter is also a director at Tarver Melrose, working as an executive search consultant with a focus on helping estates and the rural economy appoint senior business leaders.

“Given my ‘day job’ of working as a head-hunter, I am particularly interested in supporting the transfer of knowledge from other sectors into the rural economy so that it can continue on its journey of up-skilling to deliver greater, sustainable value,” he said.

As Buckinghamshire branch chairman, Mr van Exter represents hundreds of farmers, landowners and rural businesses across the county. Paying tribute to his predecessor Robert Ruck-Keene, Mr van Exter said: “Robert has been an excellent chairman who has brought a calm and yet serious focus to proceedings, and a genuine interest in moving the agenda forward. He will continue to take an active role in the branch’s dealings with Thames Valley Police, which is of great value to the committee and wider Buckinghamshire community.”

CLA South East regional director Tim Bamford said: “We wish to place on record our sincere thanks to Robert Ruck-Keene for his tremendous work, ideas and enthusiasm over the course of his chairmanship. We are delighted to welcome Charlie van Exter into the role and look forward to working closely with him over the next few years.”

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