Profit from leisure

Growth in country sports and leisure is creating new opportunities for producers looking for diversifications complementary to the ebb and flow of farming’s fortunes.

It’s reckoned that fishing represents the fastest growth in the countryside leisure sector, allowing land owners and occupiers to let out riverbank fishing and pools to myriad individuals and organisations.

Although restrictions on use may be applied by government agencies such as the Environment Agency and companies such as British Waterways – responsible for managing different types of watercourses – producers’ main concerns will be establishing conditions of use and access, suggest advisers.

It’s very much the same for those looking to let out stabling or grass keep to the equine sector.

As this week’s Country Sports and Leisure section in Marketplace reveals, it’s a growth market that despite the horse’s long association with agriculture has yet to mature.

And the money can be good.

A glance at reading material available on the internet suggests producers could net a minimum of £10/week for grazing, £20-£25 for grass livery and over £30 for stabled livery.

There are, however, implications.

Planning, VAT status and insurance all need reviewing to ensure all the appropriate legislation and liabilty angles are covered with the farm’s business advisers.

On a more practical note there are a number of supply companies offering everything from field shelters to internal stable partitions and even stable yard equipment such as trailers and tack listed in Marketplace.

Conversion of existing farm buildings can be simple and relatively low cost where farm or family labour is used.

And if the coffers are sufficient, there’s even the opportunity to acquire an existing property with equine facilities to boot or – for those more interested in riding than offering equine or riding facilities – free classified listings of horses and pony offered for sale from everyday hacks to seasoned showjumpers valued accordingly.

As with land itself, the opportunities for leisure can seem endless.

Before taking the plunge a leading rural insurance provider recommends visiting similar business ventures and sounding out the pitfalls as well as the plus points with operators – there’s often nothing more valuable than free advice.

It is also worthwhile seeking advice from local planners depending on the scale of the diversification planned.

Minor ventures may escape planning rules but establishing horse exercise arenas, golf driving ranges or fairways, and off-road driving courses may require an application for change of land use to be submitted.

Paradoxically in a society where many producers as well as the public suggest day-to-day lives are busier today than in the past, the flood of interest in leisure pastimes has yet to show signs of reaching a watershed.

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