HC Deb 17 December 2001 vol 377 cc136-7W
Mr. Todd

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent steps she has taken to assist farmers diversifying into farm-based horse enterprises; what representations she has received on this issue since June; and if she will make a statement. [22461]

Alun Michael

Farmers wishing to diversify their farm business, including diversification into farm-based horse enterprises, can apply for funding under the Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES), part of the England Rural Development Programme which was launched in September 2000. There are equivalent measures in Objective 1 areas.

DEFRA also offers assistance in the form of free planning consultancy advice to farmers who intend to pursue an eligible RES diversification project.

Other funding for farm diversification projects which utilise existing farm buildings is available from regional development agencies in the form of redundant building grant.

The Government have also taken other practical measures to encourage farm diversification generally which will assist farmers diversifying into equine businesses. The Rating (Former Agricultural Premises and Rural Shops) Act 2001 provides for rate relief on buildings and land used for all non-agricultural enterprises on what had previously been agricultural premises. An amendment to guidance in Planning Police Guidance note 7 (PPG7), "The Countryside—Environmental Quality and Economic and Social Development", on farm diversification makes clear the importance that the Government attach to diversification. It encourages local planning authorities to support well-conceived schemes that are consistent in their scale with their rural location.

Since June I have had representations on this issue from the British Equestrian Federation and the British Horse Industry Confederation.