On Wednesday 10th February Carver Knowles hosted a very successful seminar on farm diversification and planning, attended by over 140 farms from Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire. Julie Branfield, associate director at Carver Knowles said “it was great to see so many farmers from across the three counties attending the meeting and looking positively to address their falling farm incomes”.

The evening focussed on the options available to farmers whilst they are under increasing pressure to produce more from less. Carver Knowles have been involved with a number of successful farm diversification projects from a racing yard near Upton upon Severn, a Farm shop in Combe Hill and a green waste composting facility near Pendock.

Simon Rowles, Carver Knowles’ new planning consultant, provided the farmers at the meeting with an update on the permitted development rights which allow agricultural buildings to be converted to commercial and residential units. This proved to be very popular topic as it can provide a smoother ride through the planning system to get an additional dwelling on a farm or to generate an income from an underutilised building on the farm.

Once the diversification options and planning process had been outlined to the audience Andrew Troughton, Managing Director of Carver Knowles discussed the options for financing new proposals.  Andrew highlighted the two key requirements that lenders are always looking for; security and serviceability and the likely thresholds that are offered by different companies. Andrew also confirmed the fixed rates available this week were the lowest available from the AMC for six years so there maybe the opportunity for borrowers to fix their mortgages at the  lowest possible rate.  Both Andrew and Julie are AMC agents and also work with banks and other lenders to prepare business plans and budgets.

To round off the evening, Jonathan Crowther of Crowthers Chartered Accountants, gave a brief overview of the tax implications of a diversification project. It seemed apparent through this talk that all elements of tax are affected by diversification as most other businesses do not enjoy the same tax breaks offered to agriculture. Careful planning is required to ensure that the agricultural benefits are maintained and all other non agricultural elements are appropriately dealt with.

The evening clearly highlighted the importance of seeking professional help when considering diversified activities, whether it is a land agent to discuss the viability of the proposal and assist with a business plan, a planning consultant to assess whether the development needs planning and the chances of success or an accountant to help plan the tax strategy for the business.

Carver Knowles would like to thank Ledbury Rugby Club for providing an excellent venue,  Crowthers Chartered Accounts for their support and most of all everyone that came along to the seminar.