Why is the size of the land exciting?
If you own over 5 hectares of land, and have an agricultural business, you qualify for Agricultural Permitted Development. This means you don’t need to apply for planning permission for agricultural buildings up to 465 sq meters. This gives you a degree of certainty that you don’t have if you have to ask for Planning permission, where, the council could say ‘No’. I had permitted development for a barn and two polytunnels. I haven’t erected the barn and final polytunnel, having taken Stag’s advice, as a potential buyer may have different priorities, such as having more polytunnels or a larger barn.
If you read Field to Farm, there is an explanation of how you can use Permitted Development to firstly obtain the rights to build. They then explain you can use the Caravan Act to ‘stay’ on the land (as distinct from ‘live’, which you can’t do) while you are carry out the ground and engineering works. While you do this, you can also build your agricultural business, and then when the works are complete, or after a certain length of time, you can apply for temporary permission to live on the land. The council would normally give 3 years temporary permission, and if you can show your agricultural business making a profit, you could then apply for permission to build a house (with an agricultural tie).
This was my plan, however I am partially disabled and it has become too difficult to do, as I am largely on my own.
There is a 25kw transformer that services only the land. I am told this is far more substantial than I need, but it does give future owners the potential (subject to all the appropriate rules) to have solar or wind power and benefit from feed in tariffs. Alternatively, there is ample power available for a campsite – The Camping and Caravanning Club and the Caravan and Motorhome Clubs have the power to grant permission to have an affiliated campsite up to a certain size, again, without applying for permission. Most campers want power points.
Had I reached this point, this would have provided a valuable income, and also a ready market for eggs, bacon, sausages, homemade jams etc from the farm, (the plan was to have a farm shop in part of the barn, with a commercial kitchen above for making the produce) and also I felt that if I allowed open fires, there would be sales of firewood and marshmallows.
A water main runs inside the hedge along the road. I have a connection and the static caravan is connected and separately, the polytunnel and there is a pipe leading towards the pig enclosures for their drinkers. I looked into having a borehole and this is possible, but at the time I didn’t know where to place it, and I didn’t have electricity to power the pump, so I didn’t proceed. From memory, I was quoted around £4000 by Aquascource. This map (select Borehole Scans) shows the nearest boreholes are between 18 and 28 meters deep.
This is where I have stayed under the Caravan Act, however when I bought it, the plan was for it to be a field shelter. I have been through 3 winters, which are mild, usually. This year was the test, as we had snow for the 1st time and it coped well. There is underfloor insulation and double glazing and I have a couple of plug in oil-filled radiators. It has two bedrooms, one large, one small, a kitchen with halogen oven, electric hot water, phone and broadband connections. It has a compost loo that I built as there is no sewerage connected. The kitchen and shower drain into a soakaway.
Apart from the oven, all the electricity demands are low, as for the 1st eight months on site, I did not have mains electric and there was a strong suspicion that I may have to have a solar system.
There is no gas connected, as the gas equipment at the time of purchase was too old to be economically serviceable. Taking into account annual safety inspections and the fire hazard I opted to remove all the gas.
Car Park, track and hardstanding
The car park is lined with Tarram membrane and surfaced with subbase. The track and hardstanding is also lined with membrane, but I have used road plannings which is cheaper and in the sun, reconstitute into a very firm base. Road planings are readily available from Cormac, and periodically (and cheaper) from Road Planing Supplies. I have had 28 tonne trucks drive on this surface with no concerns. The advantage of using membrane is the structure is firmer. Without this, I would be perpetually filling in potholes that appear… so far so good. On the advice of Stags, while the hardstanding is dug out, I haven’t finished it, as the new owner may have a different plan.
The polytunnel is 60ft by 18ft. It was supplied by 1st Tunnels and, given the site can become windy, it has every strengthening system in place. It’s anchored 75cm into the ground with 22 ground anchors and this winter sat in 80mph winds without batting an eye. It has irrigation, that could be automatic when the electricity is over there, but is manual at present. Last year it was a huge success with chilli plants growing 5ft high and delivering kilo’s of chilli’s per plant and an unexpected discovery, of how delicious watermelons are when home grown.
The Polytunnel is inside an acre that is set aside for growing herbs, vegetables and fruit – it is protected by rabbit mesh.
The Pig Pastures
Being on my own, I wanted the pig pastures to be easy to handle for movements and, as I’m on my own, I don’t want to be chasing escaped pigs so the gates open to also block off the track to close escape routes when pigs are being delivered or taken away. In due course the middle field was to be a pig system for breeding. The pig zones completed are presently used for bring on weaners, but in due course, one is separated from the other by the required 3 meters to allow it to be checked and signed off as a medical pen if there a sickness.
Chicken Run and Coop
The chickens have a house suitable for 50 hens, set in an area 5m by 25m. This has an entrance gate one side and two exit gates on the other, each of which lead to a fenced off area of the orchard. I allow the chickens to use one of the other sides of the orchard so they always have access to fresh grass. Without this system, they would quickly change grass to earth. A good supply of grass (and bugs) gives them the prized orangey coloured yolks and old fashioned taste people desire.
The main pen is also covered in haystack netting, for bird flu compliance when DEFRA impose restrictions. Both ends of the main coop are separated by gates, to make introducing new hens and the perimeter fence posts have gate sized spaces to allow for further expansion.
You can’t beat having your own supply of orange yoked, fresh eggs daily!
Birds – regular visitors are buzzards, tawny and barn owls, cuckoos, wrens, gold-crests, kestrels, pied wagtail, bull finch, chaffinch, fold finch, sparrow, swallows, coal tits and flue tits, thrush, corvids, long tailed tits, Percy and Patricia, the pigeons and Rocky the robin who will almost eat of your hand. Butterflies are in abundance as well, happily, including a thriving population of Red Admirals.
Prior to me, the land was rented out to a potato farmer and had lost a lot of it’s organic matter. It has had 4 years without crops and being topped twice a year with the cuttings being allowed to return to the soil. Consequently, the land is becoming more fertile and is slightly acidic which is perfect for most vegetables and fruit.