Planning change could be 'rural boost'

RURAL businesses looking for ways to create long-term income streams could benefit from changes to planning rules, says specialist lender AMC.

Changes to planning laws announced by communities secretary Eric Pickles last month should make it easier for farmers to convert redundant rural buildings for business use.

Under the new rules, shops, offices, industrial units or other commercial properties could be developed more easily, offering the chance of long-term income streams.

"This announcement is potentially very good news for land owners and farmers who are thinking about ways to diversify their business and secure their incomes," said AMC head Jonathan Allright.

"Making use of existing buildings and diversifying them into a new income stream could help strengthen agricultural businesses,"

Mr Allright said interest rates were at their lowest since 1957 on some measures.

"With 10-year fixed-rates being especially competitive, this could be a great option that naturally suits the payback period for many projects relating to converting redundant buildings."

With an increase in Annual Investment Allowances and interest rates at historic lows, now could be a good time to consider investing in a cost-effective way, said Mr Allright.

Conservationists have warned that the planning rule changes could make it too easy to build in the countryside.

But Mr Allright said many borrowers had responsibly converted redundant properties in the past, creating successful B&Bs, farm shops, commercial buildings or light industrial units.

In 2009, for example, the Pitt family turned a range of redundant farm buildings at Bridgnorth in Shropshire into high quality self-catering accommodation.

Harry Pitt says that the decision was not taken lightly but with the right market research and a solid business plan they were able to secure funding and develop the project.

He remains convinced that the investment was the right thing for his business, helping to generate a strong income stream from otherwise non-productive buildings.

"We are extremely pleased with the final result in terms of the quality of the accommodation and the level of repeat business," said Mr Pitt.

"This demonstrates that the decision to diversify in this way was the right one for us and has helped to improve the future viability of our family estate.



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