Farm Diversification and Planning Permission in Scotland: guidance

Guidance on farm diversification and planning permission.

A Guide to Farm Diversification and Planning Permission in Scotland

Preparing for Diversification

Consider your options

A wide variety of successful diversification projects have already taken place on many farms across Scotland. This has accelerated in recent years. There is now an abundance of experience which can be shared to increase understanding. Speaking to farmers who have already diversified will help you decide whether your business idea could succeed. They will have valuable experience and be able to inform you of the local market conditions, the skills and resources required and the actions you need to take to make your business idea a reality. It is always worth making a visit to see first hand how others have successfully diversified.

Scientific, technical, business, environmental and conservation advice can be obtained from your nearest Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) office. SAC maintains a Farm Diversification Database on alternative enterprises, which can give you some ideas and general information to help you make an informed decision.

Local tourist boards and local enterprise companies may also be able to assist you with information, for example visitor numbers, local strategies and priorities in your area.

A list of useful websites, addresses and phone numbers is provided at the back.

Business viability

Before spending money on submitting a planning application you should consider the business requirements. A business plan is the standard means of deciding whether your proposals are financially viable. Although a business plan is not essential, most banks, building societies or funding organisations will ask for a plan if they are to lend you money or pay grants. Your local enterprise company will be able to give advice on preparing a business plan. They also have extensive local knowledge and business expertise and can offer a wide range of business development and training services.

Available financial support

The Scottish Executive Environment & Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) can provide financial support to diversification projects as part of separate schemes for the Highlands & Islands (which includes European Union resources) and lowland Scotland. The Agricultural Business Development Scheme (ABDS) and the Farm Business Development Scheme (FBDS) fall within the scope of the European Union Rural Development Regulation.



Farm shop, gallery and tea room, Perthshire

The purpose of the Schemes is to provide financial support to farming families to develop new enterprises or to support the expansion of an existing diversified activity. Activities eligible for grant assistance include the provision of facilities for tourism, leisure and recreation, alternative agriculture, residential letting and rural services. Assistance with associated training and marketing is also available. Both Schemes are competitive and discretionary, application is not guarantee of success. For further information contact SEERAD on 0131 244 6167.

The Agriculture Processing & Marketing Grant Scheme can provide assistance to a wide range of applicants including individuals, partnerships, groups of producers and private or public companies that process or market primary agricultural produce. Separate schemes operate in the Highlands and Islands and lowland Scotland with maximum rates of public assistance up to 50% in the Highlands and Islands and 40% in Lowland Scotland. The priorities for assistance under both schemes are in the main projects which add value, involve collaboration and develop new products and markets. The principal priority of the scheme is to ensure that tangible lasting benefits accrue to the primary agriculture sector. For further information contact SEERAD on 0131 244 6253.

The Rural Stewardship Scheme is the main plank in Scotland's agri-environment programme. It helps promote a viable and environmentally friendly farming industry by providing financial support for farming methods that protect and enhance Scotland's landscape, habitats, wildlife and historic environment.

In addition to SEERAD, advice on grant aid is available to farmers from the Scottish Agricultural College. SAC advisers are familiar with all grant schemes available to Scottish farmers and will be pleased to assist you in completing grant scheme applications and assessing the impact on your business. You can also contact FWAG Scotland (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group) for expert and up-to-date conservation advice and guidance on grant aid.


Boarding kennels and cattery, Aberdeenshire

Preparing your Planning Application

At an early stage your planning authority will be able to provide general advice. They will also be able to tell you where you can view and ask questions about the development plan for your area. Development plans are the basis for decisions on planning applications and will tell you about:

  • policies for development allowed in the countryside;

  • what land is designated as greenbelt or protected in some way because of its nature conservation or landscape quality;

  • what the planning authority's policies are on individual topics such as farm diversification, economic development, tourism, rural housing, recreation or retailing; and

  • development projects or proposals likely to affect your property.

Conforming to the development plan and listening to advice from the planning authority when designing your project will increase the likelihood of success. Some planning authorities have supplementary guidance notes that may also be of assistance to you. Discussing your proposal with your planning authority before submitting an application can save time and prevent difficulties later on. These discussions are free.

There are obvious financial advantages in preparing an application yourself. However, it may be beneficial to get some help from professional advisers such as planning or agricultural consultants, architects, surveyors or solicitors.

You should try to have in mind, when preparing your planning application, what sort of things the planning authority will be concerned about. Clearly the larger and more complex the application the more thought you need to put into it, although, on the whole, preparing a planning application should be relatively straightforward. It is worthwhile however speaking to planning staff using the following general checklists if you are in any doubt.

When designing any diversification project you should consider the following:

  • your local community, particularly your neighbours;

  • landscape, wildlife habitats and historic features; and

  • traffic, water, sewage, noise and pollution impacts.


Email: Central Enquiries Unit

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