A Westminster Government scheme to help farmers retire will create opportunities for 'new entrants', ministers say.

Ministers hope the exit scheme, which is out for consultation, will make space for the 'next generation' of English farmers, while allowing those who wish to leave the industry or retire the opportunity to do so.

However critics of the plan fear it could lead to declining numbers of smaller family businesses and instead pave the way instead for larger-scale industrial farming operations.

According to the proposals, the average farmer could receive a lump sum payment of £50,000, capped at £100,000 for farmers with most land, as part of a massive overhaul of farm grants incentivising farmers to protect the environment.

The consultation applies to England only, with plans for a separate Welsh Government scheme underway over the Welsh border.

"We wouldn’t disagree with the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, when he says that new entrants are the lifeblood of any vibrant industry and farming is no exception," said Richard Corbett, Partner with Shropshire and Mid Wales agricultural estate agent Roger Parry & Partners.

"However, he has to appreciate that farming the land is a way of life for farmers and it is not necessarily seen as a job that some would want to retire from as they get older. Perhaps this lump sum could work for those who do wish to leave farming but find it difficult to generate the capital to do so."

At the launch of the consultation the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said : "We need to address the twin challenges of helping new entrants fulfil their dream and gain access to land, while also helping an older generation retire with dignity.

"Our Exit Scheme will offer farmers real incentive to confront what can often be a difficult decision and will help them clear bills and settle debts."

The consultation will be open for 12 weeks, until 11 August 2021 and focuses on two key proposals; a lump sum payment to help farmers retire in a 'planned and managed' way, and a consultation on delinked payments, woith the government planning to phase the current Direct Payments scheme out over a gradual seven year transition period, to move to what it says is a fairer system.

The consultation includes plans to separate the payment from the amount of land farmed, from 2024, which it says will simplify the process for farmers and reward sustainable food production and environmental improvements.