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Farming family conversion of watermill to successful holiday let

Farming family conversion of watermill to successful holiday let

Mon 03 Jun 2024

Agricultural business consultancy

Changes to agricultural support payments coupled with higher demand has made diversification into holiday accommodation an attractive option for farmers.

At Little Barford near Great Tew, Brown&Co helped a farming family navigate the process of converting a redundant 16th century watermill into a stunning five-bedroom holiday let with a high standard of interior fittings and design.

The conversion opened for bookings in March 2023 and now generates a valuable secondary income stream for the arable, livestock and equine business. James Brown, Agricultural Business Consultant at Brown&Co, had initially worked with the family to consider diversification options that could strengthen the business.

We began to explore the possibility of converting the watermill into a holiday let.

He helped to bring the project to life, including handling the application process for a grant from the Rural Development Plan for England, which covered 40% of the construction costs up to a cap of £170,000. Applying for grants can be a complex process and it is not always clear what funding is available therefore involving a professional who understands the system is money well spent. Securing the funding for the Little Barford Mill project took time and a lot of paperwork.

We helped the farmer navigate the grant system and made sure that everything stacked up financially.

One of the first things to consider with diversification into holiday accommodation is what level of consent the proposed venture will require. An existing building is usually covered under the ‘change of use’ category but as a listed building there was greater complexity involved in the process of securing consent for the conversion of the watermill.

With other team members from the Agricultural Business Consultancy department at Brown&Co’s Banbury office, James helped to achieve a favourable opinion on the planning, secured a builder, and liaised with the bank to gain funding.

The owners were already clients of Brown&Co and that relationship was an important one in understanding their aims and aspirations.

The beautifully restored holiday let, which sits in a stunning location on the edge of the Cotswolds, has enjoyed a high occupancy rate since it opened for bookings with Stay Cotswold.

This insight article is featured in our 2024 Innovate magazine. To read more of the publication, you can download a digital version below.


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