The Local Plan for the Broads: Issues and Options Consultation
23. Farm diversification
Agriculture is one of the main land uses in the Broads. It is an important part of local economy, important to society for the provision of food, and part of the character and vitality of countryside.
We understand that agricultural incomes are susceptible to changes to agricultural policy and political changes, BREXIT and the Payment for public goods schemes. As such, there are lots of factors that tend to be out of farmers’ control that can impact income and make farming less viable. As a result, farmers may need to make changes less beneficial to the countryside. We also understand that farmers may want to look at diversification schemes that may provide more certainty and control over the use of land. Farm diversification can assist in making farms more viable and we hope to assist in that. That is why we have policy DM27 Business and Farm Diversification.
The aim of the farm diversification policy is not to facilitate the renting of small parcels of land to separate individuals to run separate businesses on. This results in the fragmentation of farm holdings and inappropriate development in the countryside that would not be acceptable under other policies in the Local Plan. This is not farm diversification but subdivision of the farm holding. However, it needs to be recognised that the character of land use is one that evolves continuously and the Local Plan will test applications for changes of land use against criteria to ensure that proposals support a thriving agricultural sector and rural economy but also protecting the character of the area.
The point of this policy is to help farms to stay viable. We wonder if we need to ask for supporting information on how the diversification project/proposal will enable the farm to be viable. This could be in the form of a viability study. This is important as this policy may allow development which would not otherwise be allowed and so we need to be clear that the scheme will benefit the farm business.
One way of diversifying is through the provision of holiday accommodation. This should be through the conversion of existing buildings rather than new build, unless there are particular justifications for this. This is because by converting an existing building there could be limited landscape impacts, and this approach makes use of existing buildings with the associated embodied carbon. New build in the context of this policy covers all structures (including yurts, pods and cabins).
In all cases, the diversified uses should only form a subsidiary part of the farming business as a whole and should not prejudice the existing or future agricultural operations. We need to consider and understand the cumulative impact of farm diversification projects on the farm as a whole. We wonder if there is a point where a farm has been diversified enough so the farming aspect is now the subsidiary part of the business.
It is important to note that this section refers only to the farm diversification policy. A farmer may wish to undertake development on their farm and submit these proposals under a scheme that is not considered farm diversification. The relevant policies in the Local Plan will then be engaged and used to determine the application.