18 April 2019

Diversification: could a new holiday business help to protect your farm’s future?

Now could well be an opportune time for farmers and landowners to examine a new and potentially profitable future for their businesses.

However, there is a word of advice here, the necessary thought, consideration and planning must precede any project – and such work should be factored in at every step.

Let us take, as an example, the development of a holiday accommodation business in a rural area that has always been engaged in agriculture. Such diversification, particularly glamping accommodation, is becoming increasingly popular - the recent NFU Mutual Diversification study interviewed 200 landowners who had established different businesses on their land, and property-letting and tourism was at the top of the list. Others interviewed who were planning to diversify favoured camping and caravanning sites.

Meanwhile, a major report on the economic value of holiday parks to the national economy has been published by the UK Caravan & Camping Alliance titled “Pitching the Value”. It reveals how such ventures are now generating £9.3bn in visitor expenditure equating to £5.3bn Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy. Further to that, the sector supports 171,448 full time equivalent jobs in the UK, with visitors to holiday parks and campsites staying longer and spending more than the average tourist.

Add to this the Government’s plans – outlined in the Agricultural Bill – to phase out direct subsidy payments in favour of incentivising new incomes streams for farmers, and there has perhaps never been a better time to look at such diversification projects.

However, it is an increasingly competitive market and customer expectation is high. It is also worth remembering that getting it right doesn’t have to be about an extensive budget - quirky and rustic facilities are popular in this market but guest requirements must be catered for. Considering who your target customers are and how much you are prepared to invest in such a project is a key first step.

It’s highly likely that you’ll be changing the use of your land, so in most cases planning permission will be needed. Specific licences may also be required depending on the type of accommodation business you’d like to start. Factors such as siting, access routes, visual impact to the surrounding landscape and water management can affect the success of a planning application and are vital considerations to be aware of at the beginning, but if you can demonstrate that your glamping or camping business will generate benefits (economic, environmental, social) this should help with gaining planning approval.

If you are considering such a project in the future, then Flora will be happy to talk to you - please contact her on 01507 606161, email flora.bennett@wilkinchapman.co.uk or visit wilkinchapman.co.uk

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