With the Rural Payment Agency (RPA) plans to phase out the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in England, some farmers are looking at ways to diversify their farm business.
Using redundant, unused buildings or unproductive land, farm owners are opening up whole new revenue streams separate from the day-to-day agricultural operations of the farm. These offshoots of the farm business add value to the farm’s assets, create jobs and open up opportunities to a younger entrepreneurial generation.
Many farm businesses have been reinventing themselves for the last few decades. Now, continuing supply chain issues, rapidly increasing energy prices, a worker shortage and the cost of living are playing a deciding factor in the diversification plans of many UK farm owners.
How have farmers been diversifying?
With the popularity, and often financial necessity of staycations, holiday lets, camping and glamping have been a growing concern for many farm businesses. This has also given rise to sporting activities, outdoor fitness and other leisure activities.
In addition, farm shops, cafes and restaurants have become the norm in many rural areas, whilst old barns and buildings have become wedding venues and, where possible, owners have even become developers with residential conversions.
Other diversification projects to consider:
- Caravan sites
- Office facilities
- Self storage units
- Tree houses
- Boarding kennels
- Assault courses and paint balling
- Vineyards and winemaking
- Fish farms and leisure fishing
Things to consider before diversification
If you are a farm owner and are thinking of a farm diversification project, you should see what planning options are open to you. You should speak to your local council’s planning office to see whether the new Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) will apply to your plans or whether full planning permission is needed for change of use.
There are also professional advisers who provide consultancy services and help with obtaining diversification funding, planning permission, holiday let finances, development loans and rural compliance.
Some sites that could be considered for diversification opportunities are often situated in open countryside and so planning permission is difficult to obtain for any new buildings. In addition, if a site is located within the following areas then there are further restrictions from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which need to be addressed.
- The Green Belt
- A conservation area
- A National park
- An Area of Outstanding National Beauty
Using Permitted Development Rights?
Using PDR to diversify gives you an easier, cheaper and much quicker way of getting your development through the planning stage.
Many diversification projects look to Part 3 of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order which focuses on change of use. This is where the three classes Q, R and S set out the guidelines on the change of agricultural buildings.
Class Q: Allows for agricultural buildings to be converted to a limit of 5 new dwellings. The building’s structural integrity must be capable of conversion and the floor space is capped at 465 sqm. Evidence must be provided that the building was previously used for agricultural purposes before 20th March 2013.
Class R: Allows for agricultural buildings to be converted to a flexible commercial use of up to 500 sqm. Evidence must be provided that the building was previously used for agricultural purposes before 3rd July 2012.
Class S: Allows for agricultural buildings to be converted to state-funded schools or registered nurseries with the change not exceeding 500 sqm. Evidence must be provided that the building was previously used for agricultural purposes before 20th March 2013.
A total of up to £110 million is available for financial years 2023 to 2024 and 2024 to 2025 through the Government’s Rural Fund, which tops up the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).
This can be go towards converting farm buildings to other business uses or for rural tourism such as investments in visitor accommodation and farm diversification for event venues.
Running throughout should be the consideration of how your investments will contribute to net zero and the recovery of objectives.
Where can Livetec help
Livetec have been working with farm businesses for over a decade.
We understand the regulations and legislation which come with branching out into other business ventures and revenue streams as well as those associated with increasing the level of protection you put around your farm, especially if your working premise is also home to animals.
On a working farm that still keeps animals, biosecurity is even more important than ever. If you’re planning on catering for guests through weekend breaks or holiday lets, opening a farm shop or restaurant then biosecurity is paramount.
To find out how Livetec can advise you on the biosecurity issues you must consider when embarking on a diversification project contact us today.