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Comprehensive legal advice on farm diversification

The agricultural sector currently faces more challenges than ever before. To help weather the storm, many businesses are turning to farm diversification to generate extra income. Tourism, hospitality, retail and renewable energy are all ways to make the most of existing land and resources.

At Clarke Willmott, our multidisciplinary team of commercial and private client specialists has extensive experience in the opportunities and complexities involved in diversification.

As a national law firm with strong rural roots and extensive agricultural expertise, we have an excellent reputation for providing well-rounded strategic advice and legal services to farmers and landowners moving into new business sectors.

Under our ‘roof’ we have specialists in planning, regulation, employment, tax, succession planning and more. They work as one team to help our clients realise every aspect of their vision and ensure it is protected for the next generation.

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Types of rural diversification projects we advise on

We offer expert legal advice on a wide range of diversification projects such as:

  • Tourism – e.g. B&B, glamping, caravan parks, eco-tourism, holiday lets
  • Retail – e.g. farm shops, Pick Your Own (PYO)
  • Food and drink – e.g. butchery, honey, ice cream, cider, brewing
  • Events and hospitality – e.g. cafés, conferences, festivals, weddings
  • Leisure and recreation – e.g. petting zoos, paintballing, quad biking
  • Business lets – e.g. offices, storage units, car parking
  • Renewables – e.g. green energy and battery storage schemes, granting options and leases to energy companies for wind, solar, battery storage biomass, biofuels and other renewable projects
  • Sustainable farming – e.g. hydroponics, natural habitat creation.

Our expertise in action

These examples show how our specialist teams work together to provide our clients with end-to end advice on farm diversification.

Renewable energy – siting a scheme on land

A landowner proposed to grant an option and lease for a battery storage and gas generation scheme on their land. Our advice included negotiating the heads of terms, option agreement and lease; ensuring the client understood the implications of the scheme on any inheritance tax relief claims; and advising them how to improve the chance of securing a business property relief claim for the parcel of land concerned.

Events – use of land and buildings

A landed estate owner wished to use of some of its agricultural land and buildings for events, in particular weddings and an annual festival. Our support included preparing the application for planning permission and liaising with the local planning authority; ensuring that the event agreement terms were fair and reasonable and complied with consumer protection legislation; and advising on health and safety and other regulatory obligations.

Retail – setting up a farm shop

A tenant farmer planned to set up an on-site farm shop. Our advice on the legal issues covered all aspects of his food safety/regulatory liabilities and responsibilities, including registering the shop as a food retailing business with the local authority and applying for a butchery licence. We also reviewed his Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy agreement to ensure there was no prohibition on setting up the shop, drafted employment contracts for the shop staff, and advised him on ongoing HR issues.

Sustainable farming – establishing an agritech joint venture

A major pea and bean grower (whose crops are being affected by climate change) wanted to set up a joint venture with another grower, using redundant farm buildings on his land. Our advice included drawing up a special share farming agreement; investigating whether there were any issues with using the disused farm buildings for indoor farming; and checking the design-and-build agreement with a specialist aeroponic engineering company and advising on specific intellectual property issues.

Tourism – setting up a glamping and holiday lets business

A farming partnership wanted to set up a glamping site (as a franchisee) and furnished holiday lets business. We advised them on franchise documentation, planning consents, licences and setting up a limited company for the new venture, as well as identifying tax implications – particularly the special tax rules applying to rental income from furnished holiday lettings (FHLs).

Our combined expertise in agricultural diversification

Diversification projects often require expert legal advice across the board, from strategy and planning permission to third party negotiations, documentation and regulatory compliance. There are also many personal considerations, including asset protection and succession planning.

Our clients have access to all this expertise and can be confident our corporate, commercial and private client solicitors are working together in their best interests. This united expertise is particularly important for those moving into the regulatory maze of the renewable energy sector, an area in which we have significant experience.

Our in-depth farm diversification service includes:

Real estate: First, our real estate specialists review documents such as deeds and tenancy agreements to ensure the proposed new venture is permitted. They will check whether it needs consent from a landlord or lender, or whether it potentially breaches any restrictive covenants.

Next, our Planning team investigates whether planning consent is required. If so, we make all the necessary applications and liaise with planning authorities throughout.

Tax, estate and succession planning: Our tax, estate and succession planning specialists, including certified accountants and chartered tax advisers, provide expert advice and ensure that projects are set up in the most tax-efficient way for the client and their beneficiaries.

Corporate and commercial law: Our Corporate team works in tandem with our Succession Planning team to recommend and advise on the most tax-efficient trading structure for the new venture – for example, a limited company or a partnership agreement. We then set up the new structure on our client’s behalf.

For consumer-facing ventures, for example tourism, retail and hospitality, our Commercial team includes experts on data protection and Ts & Cs.

Our Commercial team can also advise on putting contracts in place with the businesses that you trade with, as well as intellectual property and general business matters.

Finance: If a client needs to raise funding, we work with the client’s own financial advisers to advise on financing options and make sure they meet any legal and regulatory requirements.

Employment law: If a venture involves taking on new permanent or seasonal staff, our Employment and HR team can advise on all aspects of employment law, from drafting contracts and advising on policies, to major legal issues.

Regulatory compliance: Our Regulatory team advises clients on whether licences or consents are required in order to operate. They also advise on the health and safety obligations to ensure the new business is safe for the public and employees.

Contact us for specialist advice on farm diversification today

Call 0800 652 8205 for a free consultation with a member of the team or get in touch online. We have private wealth and agriculture solicitors working across the country from our offices in Taunton, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester and Southampton.

Your key contacts

Tom Chiffers


Tom is a Partner in Clarke Willmott’s Taunton Private Capital team, specialising in inheritance tax and succession planning for private individuals, farmers and other business owners.
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Amy Peacey


Amy helps businesses and individuals document their contract relationships with third parties ensuring their commercial contracts are legally sound and comply with all applicable laws.
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Philip Whitcomb


Philip is a private client partner who acts for a large number of farmers, landowners and high-net worth individuals. He has particular expertise in advising on succession planning and the structuring of farm businesses.
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