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Why Diversification is Essential for Farmers

If the latest series of Clarkson’s Farm has taught us anything, it’s that diversification and planning are vital, says Sarah Parker of Andrew Jackson Solicitors

For those unfamiliar with Amazon’s hugely popular TV show Clarkson’s Farm, a recurring storyline is Jeremy Clarkson’s conflicts with the local planning department about the various diversification projects he wants to pursue, especially his plans for the farm shop and restaurant.

It would be easy to dismiss Clarkson’s fall outs with his local council officers as entertainment for the masses, but the show provides many practical insights for those attempting to navigate their way through the UK planning permission framework – something many farmers are turning to, as they seek opportunities to diversify and secure a viable future for the farm.

You need planning permission for more than you may realise

It’s important to note that it isn’t only construction that requires planning, but any necessary demolition work too.

It may not seem obvious, but anything which changes the land may well need planning, including structural alterations, or even knocking down existing buildings.

Even if you are handy enough to do it yourself, if the work would normally be carried out by a builder, it may need planning, although with that said, there are many exceptions. The best course of action is to seek advice about your planning needs, before you undertake anything, so that you know where you stand and whether you are able to take advantage of an exemption.

General exemptions

The criteria for agriculture general exemptions allowing ‘permitted development’ is straightforward, the main point being that you qualify if your farm is five hectares or more.

If you meet the criteria you may have the right to erect, extend or alter an agricultural building on agricultural land.

Permitted Development can often assist with diversification projects, as you may also be able to carry out excavations and engineering operations needed for agricultural purposes. However, there is still a streamlined process to go through prior to making any changes.

It is important to note that Permitted Development cannot always be used even if the criteria is met, for instance, if your property is a listed building or located within a conservation area, National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Site or a site of special scientific interest.

The process

Even though a planning application may not be needed, you do need to notify the council of your plans. This is called a prior approval application and enables you to confirm that you can proceed. It is a short application to the council, which is obliged to respond within 56 days; if it does not then your application is deemed approved and you can proceed with plans.

Other diversification options

It’s clear that it is becoming increasingly common for farmers to consider ways to move their operations beyond the ‘traditional’ model. Besides Clarkson setting up his retail shop and attempting to open a restaurant to sell his – and local farmers’ – produce, there are other schemes that could prove to be successful diversification ventures, including holiday accommodation on farmland, non-food energy crops or renewables, and making use of redundant space and farm buildings for storage or warehousing.

To unlock these sorts of opportunities successfully you’ll need to meet the necessary legal requirements, whilst also ensuring that you protect your core farming business.

If you would like to discuss your plans for the farm, or for any advice on agricultural development, please get in touch with Sarah Parker in our agriculture and rural affairs team, at or call Sarah on 01482 325242

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