Farmers doing their own building work urged to check regulations

Recent changes to the Construction, Design and Management rules require a “competent contractor” to carry out all elements of building work on farms. This doesn’t mean a farmer can’t still manage his own project or do some of the work.

“Provided farmers fully understand all the implications and, importantly, comply with these then there is no reason why they can’t continue to oversee their own work,” says Antony Lowther, managing director of AJ Lowther & Son.

Based at Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, Mr Lowther has more than 25 years’ experience designing, fabricating and erecting farm and industrial buildings. Recent jobs for the family firm varied from grain, straw, potato and silage stores through to a bat enclosure and monkey house at Bristol Zoo.

With many farm buildings a once-in-a-lifetime investment, it’s important to remember that planning regulations may have changed since the last one went up, he says [for more on this subject see the article on Permitted Development Rights on p6].


It’s also important to sort out the design and even the contractor or fabricator before applying for either prior approval or planning permission.

“There is nobody, apart from the farmer himself, more committed to ensuring that the project gets planning permission than the business that has been contracted to put up the building,” says Mr Lowther. “They will work hard to help you.” But some larger, more complex projects may need the services of a specialist planning consultant.

Bigger projects are likely to involve a lead contractor, usually either the building’s fabricator or the company carrying out the groundworks. This firm will allocate a project manager to oversee all the work and ensure that it complies with all the regulations and is carried out within the Construction, Design and Management (CDM) rules. In this case all the farmer needs to do to meet the CDM rules is to ensure he has appointed a “competent contractor”.

“The process of putting out the work to tender and assessing the various firms’ suitability, experience and professionalism will show the authorities that the farmer has made a considered judgement before appointing the contractor. The Rural and Industrial Design and Building Association is a good source of companies who have to meet standards to be members.

But, provided the building is not too complex, the farmer could manage their own project and use their staff as well. However, if they do, then they become responsible for ensuring the work complies with the CDM rules. While this places the onus on working with the competent contractors, there is no reason why you cannot clear the site, do the ground work and dig the footings using self-employed people – provided you ensure they have the relevant qualifications and experience.

When it comes to erecting the fabric of the building, which usually requires bolting together steel girders, Mr Lowther says there is also nothing legally stopping farms from also doing this themselves. “A farmer can employ whoever he likes to erect the building – provided it is done in a professional manner by competent staff.

“But don’t forget gravity doesn’t discriminate between a farmer and a steel worker. The job still requires all the relevant equipment, safety nets and handrails to be used, along with specialist cherry pickers,” he adds. “The staff also needs to be trained to work at heights.”

* Antony Lowther will be one of the speakers at the seminars at this year’s Agricultural Buildings Show at the Bath and West Showground, Shepton Mallet, Somerset on April 2.
Tickets cost £10 on the door or £5 in advance. For more info or to book tickets ring 08454-900142 or click on the
official Agricultural Buildings Show website.

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