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When Christopher Ussher joined us as a consultant in February 2022, he brought with him a wide range of experience developing and growing businesses and assisting and advising on a number of country estates, with a particular focus on diversification, planning and fundraising.

Diversification can help generate substantial, additional income streams for both country estates and farm businesses, so capitalising on opportunities can prove extremely important to any rural business.

Having been Chief Executive at Harewood House Trust and Resident Land Agent at Harewood Estate for 25 years, he had played an integral part in developing the business. Christopher said: “A key part of any diversification is to identify not only initial opportunities, but also secondary ancillary businesses to bring in further income. A positive diversification for any estate is the reuse of redundant listed farm buildings.”

One of the projects he was involved in on the Harewood Estate was looking at possible re-use opportunities for a range of stone buildings geared towards 18th-century agriculture which, due to the size of modern machinery, were unsuitable for use in modern-day agriculture.

Chris explained: “Although listed buildings can bring complexities, a feasibility study identified that they could be converted into modern, fully facilitated office spaces, attracting businesses looking for a picturesque location out of busy town and city centres. In total, 15 offices were created; and although converting listed buildings was a difficult process, we found that once you have a track record of success the process becomes easier, so someone with previous experience can provide invaluable advice. Once converted it was then important to look at adding value through secondary business opportunities and how to make the most of these.”

Diversification can help generate substantial additional income streams for both country estates and farm businesses, so capitalising on opportunities can prove extremely important to any rural business.

While at Harewood House, Christopher also played an integral part in the development of the Emmerdale television film set on the estate, and went on to secure filming opportunities with Heartbeat, A Touch of Frost and At Home with the Braithwaites. He said: “When we built Emmerdale Village we were at the cutting edge – nobody else was creating large television sets on estates at the time, and I was involved in all of the negotiations with Yorkshire Television. It brought a lot of jobs, so when applying for planning permission I ensured that it was tied to the application that the development would secure jobs for the estate. This meant we had full-time security guards for the set, pest control as well as a gardener who not only worked to maintain the gardens of the houses on set, but also worked to ensure there were seasonal plants and flowers in relation to the filming taking place.

“But with so many estates registered on various platforms to indicate that they are open to opportunities, pitching a venue correctly is key. It’s about knowing the kinds of filming an estate would be suitable for by looking at elements such as what buildings there are, the period features and the scale of opportunity which the estate would be comfortable with. It helps to connect with someone with prior experience who can offer their support with this, address any concerns, and reach out to contacts to further strengthen any opportunities.”

If you are interested in investigating diversified income streams on your land and would like to seek professional advice on potential options, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.