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Ask the Expert by Charlie Giffard

Q: I’ve got a set of lovely old farm buildings, which are no longer fit for purpose. What are my options in terms of development?

First of all you have to consider what purpose the farm buildings lend themselves to, structure, proximity and location. The options include residential – long term or holiday; commercial – offices, workshops, storage. You have to ask how any of these uses and activities could affect the rest of your farm business and indeed your lifestyle, either positively or negatively.

Once you are comfortable that you can live and work with such a development, perhaps close by to the farmhouse, or to farm activities there is the matter of planning. How far do you want to take the farm buildings yourself? Do you want to retain ownership of the development and generate an additional income? Do you have the financial resources, time and expertise to take on such a project in addition to your farming activities? Or are you risk-averse, so perhaps it is better to take a clean break and re-invest in the farm or an alternative enterprise?

If you are to choose the latter option of selling, there are a number of ways to secure a buyer, either via the open market or a joint venture. What timescale would be acceptable to you? Whichever way the sale is conveyed protection can be put in place, to ensure the safety of your neighbouring farm assets and the current enjoyment. 

Further, don’t under estimate the potential disruption while development work is taking place, such as the need for storage and site facilities and the site set-up costs. If you chose not to develop the buildings, what will become of them?

It is likely that there will never be an easier time to gain planning on redundant farm buildings. April 2018 saw the parameters for such projects extended to five residential units, or less with greater floor space.

The soundest advice is to seek professional guidance and ensure that all stake holders and, or family members, are comfortable with the chosen route. Finally, it is worth remembering that there are a finite number of “old farm buildings” they don’t build them anymore – and diminishing supply always holds some residual value.

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