Farmers and Landowners, are you considering new agricultural buildings?

Mike Bracegirdle, head of the Butcher & Barlow Agriculture Team, examines whether now is the right time to consider erecting new farm buildings.


Many farmers and landowners are currently, necessarily, cautious of making investments, particular with reference to fixed capital costs such as buildings. We may be in a ’political flux’ in relation to Brexit, but in some ways there has never been a better time to put up new buildings than now.

The country is still enjoying the favourable Permitted Development Regulations (PDRs) in relation to the conversion of existing farm buildings into dwellings, finance remain relatively cheap and there is no doubt that that buildings in alternative use to agriculture can play a part now and in the future to a rural business bottom line.  All these factors give rise to the need to consider the option to of a new build carefully.


Benefits of a new building

Putting up a new building for agricultural purposes can have numerous advantages:

  • The new building is likely going to be far more fit for current purpose and adaptable to a users changing requirements.
  • The older buildings which are then released from their current use could be redeveloped into either residential units and sold off thus reducing any borrowing (even taking into account the cost of the new buildings).
  • The older buildings could be let out on short term holiday lets given the expanding holiday industry in the UK (which may become even more popular if there are tighter controls vis a vis travelling or purchasing properties in Europe) and may be able to replace income which has been lost from traditional farming methods.
  • The older buildings could be converted into workshops or office units. For example, what was a former grain store with low ceilings which may not now be suitable for a 16-20 tonne trailer could easily be converted into a workshop or an office unit.
  • In many areas there is currently a substantial demand for buildings for non-farming uses (particularly on the edge of towns and cities). That profit from renting out building for such shops and offices would compare very favourably with the current return on some crops.



So long as your new build meets the basic criteria, and you can provide the agricultural justification, it is possible to put up a structure of 1000sq.m under PDRs.

The application process for a new building is simple and cost effective, usually costing tens of thousands of pounds rather than hundreds of thousands, and in most cases standing an excellent chance of being approved.

Due to the current planning regime in relation to existing farm buildings, the agricultural industry does have a relatively lenient treatmen.  However the situation may not continue indefinitely – a change of government could easily threaten the current regime.  It is possible that all agricultural buildings could become subject to full planning rules in the future which would mean far more regulations and conditions and effectively making the system costly, complicated and much slower.


Business Lending

Whilst base rates are still at 0.75%, and farmers and landowners have the security of the land, most banks are keen to lend given the farmer’s strong asset base.

For any bank to lend there has to be a clear business strategy and the financial case to put up a building is currently strong.  It is possible to put up a 500sq.m general purpose structure for circa £50,000.


How can we help?

Butcher & Barlow can assist in many ways:-

  • We have a dedicated team of agricultural and commercial property experts.
  • We will work with your architect or planner from the outset if required.
  • We can deal with any public footpath diversions, which may be necessary as a result of development of a farm or barns into residential units where the footpath may well reduce the marketability of the farm or barn conversion.
  • We can assist with regard to remortgage and refinancing which may be necessary in order to initially purchase and erect the new build.
  • We can deal with any site set up and subsequent sales if the barns are to be developed and sold off as individual units.
  • We can prepare the commercial leases which may be required in the event that the redundant farm buildings are converted into workshop or office use.

Our Agriculture Team works very closely with the Commercial Property and Corporate and Commercial Departments.  By taking the time to understand your commercial objectives, Butcher & Barlow’s commercial and agriculture teams aim to become an integral part of your professional support team.  Furthermore, our partner-led services ensure that you receive the quality of advice you would expect from a city firm but at a lower cost and from a convenient business park location.

Please contact our Gadbrook Park office for further advice and assistance.

an image of Mike Bracegirdle, a Butcher & Barlow LLP employee

Mike Bracegirdle