Property Talk - Is the countryside the new home for small business?

Jonathan Jenkin

Jonathan Jenkin - Credit: Archant

Jonathan Jenkin, managing director of The Planning Design Practice Ltd, discusses property issues...

Travelling across the Derbyshire countryside as a planning consultant, I am often helping farmers diversify their businesses and working with those living in the countryside to re-use farm buildings for business and leisure purposes.

There is a growth in enterprise in the countryside. This can be seen in the development of farm shops and cafés using locally sourced produce, such as Croots outside Duffield, and Marsh Green near Kelstedge. These shops and cafés are located on busy countryside roads and have grown in popularity as people seek out good local produce. Other farmers, such as Bluebells at Locko Park and Matlock Meadows outside Matlock, have invested in popular local products like ice-cream, for which they use their own milk.

Changes to the planning framework for rural buildings were introduced by the government at the end of May 2013. This allows rural buildings with a floor area of up to 500sqm to be used for a wide range of business, leisure and retail purposes without formal planning consent but by agreement with local councils through a process of prior notification. This greater flexibility in the use of buildings is apt given an upturn in the economy. In addition, the roll out of broadband to rural communities is improving communications and making rural locations more attractive for business.

We are receiving more enquiries to re-use rural buildings by business start-ups looking for inexpensive premises, for leisure uses such as wedding venues and outdoor activities, and we expect this trend to continue.

Entrepreneurship is active in the Derbyshire countryside and the opportunity for rural business is greater than ever. This upturn in rural business activity is supported in national planning guidance and it allows the countryside to play an active role in business development and to make a contribution to a growing economy without destroying its inherent character or beauty.

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