Copyright Moore Barlow LLP (Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins merged May 2020)

Putting unused buildings to good use

There are many ways of putting redundant agricultural buildings back into use. Diversification can help stabilise the farm across the calendar year and boost income. At Moore Blatch we regularly advise clients on diversification, which can range from barn-to-office conversions for activity farms, to more ambitious schemes such as holiday parks.

Here are a few pointers for anyone considering such a project to consider:

The existing farming business

Have you sufficient staff and appetite to embark on large-scale building work and the resources required to manage a diversified use? A farm shop, for example, will require full or part-time staff; a wedding business will typically require peak input during the summer months. Also consider the future needs of the farm and whether the land or buildings may be needed again in the future for agricultural use.

Finance

If you’re planning on renovating a barn, office tenants of a converted barn are likely to require mains utility services and facilities such as good data connections. Unless these are costed at the outset, the project could run way beyond the anticipated budget.

Third-party consents

Take advice at the earliest opportunity on planning, building regulations and other consents that may be required. There are, for example, detailed requirements if you let residential property. If you are a tenant farmer consider permissions you need from your landlord and the grounds on which consent can be given or withheld. Also consider ongoing health-and-safety, insurance and other statutory requirements.

Proper documentation

If you let or license parts of your farm, document the arrangements properly and ensure no third-party occupier obtains protected business tenants’ rights under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. Farm buildings let for non-agricultural ‘business’ use can fall into this trap. If the statutory protection applies, a farm owner can be left tied to arrangements well beyond the original agreement. In some cases compensation has to be paid if the owner wants to take back use of the buildings.

Grants and other resources

Take advice on available grants and subsidies, such as the Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES), and grants for sustainable energy, such as wind farms or solar farms.

The Rural Property team at Moore Blatch would be delighted to discuss with you any plans you may have.


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