Farmers and landowners are all too aware of the dire financial situation that the UK agricultural industry finds itself in, with severe pressure on commodity prices.

The decoupling of production subsidies and diversion of payments from food production to environmental management is proving to be the final nail in the coffin for some traditional farmers.

But all is not lost.

Every farm has buildings, ranging from traditional barns to modern steel-framed structures erected within the past few years.

Many of these are suitable for reuse for a wide variety of different enterprises, ranging from straightforward office and workshop use, through leisure, tourism, equestrian and even pure residential.

But anyone thinking of converting barns should carry out a careful evaluation of whether they have potential for an economic and sustainable re-use.

There has been no better time for farmers and landowners to pursue a change of use.

Planning Policy Statement 7 (PPS7), the government’s latest guidance on rural planning matters, dictates that local planning authorities must be sympathetic to planning applications relating to an employment-creating reuse of redundant agricultural buildings.

Interest rates are at a historically low level and many schemes are viable even where the landowner has to borrow a significant amount of the money to fund the scheme.

There is a tried and tested process that the farmer should follow and often the key to the success of the scheme is applying innovative thinking when it comes to their end use and a high level of experience and expertise in delivering successful projects.

It is also vital that all issues relating to taxation, including a change in inheritance tax status of the property, are fully considered before proceeding.

Stephen Rice is a partner in Bidwells and specialises in advising farmers and landowners in the re-use of redundant buildings.

His talk on the subject takes place at 1pm and will use case studies and actual examples.

fwfeatures@rbi.co.uk


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