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Free planning advice for farmers in England wanting to diversify ...
Free planning advice for farmers in England wanting to diversify

was announced today by rural affairs minister Alun Michael.

Farmers will be entitled to a day of a planning consultant's time,

with up to£800, for a planning feasibility study to help them

apply for a farm diversification grant under the Rural Enterprise


Speaking at the Local Government Association rural conference in

Buxton, rural affairs minister, Mr Michael said:

'We are determined to give farmers the vital help and support they

need for diversifying their businesses as a consequence of foot and

mouth disease and more generally falling economic returns. They may

well want to move from traditional crop or livestock production

into different forms of farming or activities completely outside

farming, such as farm shops and tourism activities like Bed and

Breakfast. This advice will help farmers with that important first

step along the road to understanding and satisfying the

requirements of the planning system.'

The standard package will fund: a site visit; an initial planning

feasibility study, including advice on local planning consents

required for their Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES) diversification

projects; and site plans and sketches. Where appropriate, the

consultant will suggest options for amending the project so that

the best possible planning application can be made.

The scheme fulfils the commitment in The Action Plan for Farming,

launched by the prime minister in March 2000, to provide free

planning advice for farmers pursuing diversification projects.

Details are available in a leaflet from DEFRA or on the

department's website.

Once farmers have their application approved, they are helped by a

consultant from one of four approved professional bodies and

reimbursed by DEFRA for the costs involved.

Farmers considering their future business opportunities can also

call on the services of the Farm Business Advice Service.


1. Farmers wishing to take up this free planning advice should

apply to their local DEFRA office and further details are in the

booklet 'Planning Consultancy Advice for Farm Diversification -

Guidance for applicants'. They will need to provide a summary of

the diversification idea they want to pursue. If the project is

accepted in principle, the farmer will be given approval to contact

four professional planning bodies for a list of suitable

consultants in their area. He/she will employ and pay the

consultant and be reimbursed by DEFRA.

2. Assistance will be made available to farmers wishing to pursue

viable diversification projects under the Rural Enterprise Scheme

(RES), which forms part of the England Rural Development Programme

(ERDP). This takes the form of an initial planning

appraisal/feasibility study undertaken by professional planning

consultants that are members of either the Royal Town Planning

Institute, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, British

Institute of Agricultural Consultants and the Royal Institute of

British Architects. They will also need to prove they have at

least five years' experience in town and country planning,

particularly in the rural context.

3. There will be a ceiling of up to£800 per application covering

the whole task, which will equate to approximately one day of

consultant's time. More time may be authorised in exceptional

circumstances where it is justified by very large or complex


4. Guidance for applicants and consultants is available from

DEFRA's Rural Development Service located at DEFRA regional offices.

Details are also available from the DEFRA website


5. The Farm Business Advice Service is delivered on behalf of

DEFRA by the Small Business Service through Business Link operators.

The Farm Business Advice Service was launched last year and is

being funded under the Agriculture Strategy Programme. The

service remains available to all farmers. Farmers interested in the

Farm Business Advice Service should call the Small Business Service

call centre on 0845 6009006 to register an interest.

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