Mon 08 Nov 2021
As another client gains planning approval for a change from rural to commercial use for former farm buildings, Helen Vesper-Smith, the Shouler & Son partner who heads its commercial services, senses a trend gaining momentum.
It was only three years ago (2018) that Shouler & Son launched its "Cash in your Cowshed” campaign to work with agricultural clients in assessing the viability of bringing forward redundant buildings or land holdings for alternative business premises use.
Now, having completed lease negotiations with the first tenant of four out of the six new units on behalf of the landlord on one such scheme on the outskirts of Melton Mowbray, commercial and rural partners in the firm are sensing that we are on the cusp of a growing trend in the countryside.
It’s a trend rooted in the coalescence of features of both the property market and farming that have dominated these two business sectors for most of the past decade.
Undoubtedly, the darling of the commercial property scene for a number of years now has been the industrial sector - which has attracted investor and occupier interest alike.
In the low-interest rate environment that has characterised the past decade, bricks and mortar have appealed to investors when set against the performance of other asset classes.
The growth of online and ‘click & collect’ lifestyles during this same period has seen the demand for warehousing, distribution and depot-style units put the squeeze on wider industrial property stock availability for investors and occupation by operators.
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent phases of business lockdown served to highlight the desirability of commercial property as we absented ourselves from offices and shops - to where we have only, latterly and gingerly, returned.
Whether we have changed our working and retail habits indefinitely is a moot point but the appeal of industrial commercial units endures.
In parallel, on the rural scene during this same period, future farming fortunes have been thrown in to relief by discussions of - and then the realising of - BREXIT, the revision of farm payment and support schemes, plus the swirls of debate centred on climate change and the role played by farming.
Little wonder then that, in taking stock, some farming businesses are considering refocusing land and property asset holdings and creating new revenue streams in becoming commercial property landlords within their existing setting.
There are, of course, many matters to consider ahead of embarking on this path.
As ever when it comes to property priorities, location and road connectivity are at the top of the list at the outset, alongside suitability of the land or buildings and the likelihood of change of use permissions.
The most recent scheme in which we’ve been involved is well located in Leicestershire. Similarly placed in the county is a longstanding client of the firm whose diversification into commercial property units began over ten years ago.
On behalf of this client, we let and manage six of the ‘original’ set of former grain store industrial units and are currently negotiating to let three more converted cattle sheds and former grain store units.
Indeed, this same client is now looking to bring forward the third phase of business unit development on the farm.
Diversification into commercial property is not without risk.
However, with considered advice from professionals experienced in rural and commercial property, it’s a route we anticipate exploring with a number of well positioned clients given the prevailing economic climate in the countryside.
For more information on commercial land opportunities,