Farm shops and the law

There are a number of laws which apply to farm shops and this article briefly looks at the main ones.

Planning permission and consents for farm shops

The law relating to planning permission for farm shops is complex. Before opening a farm shop you should, therefore, check with your local planning authority whether planning permission is required. Ideally you should get your local planning authority to make a ruling as to whether planning permission is required or not.

If you are planning to build a new building or change the use of an existing building planning permission will normally be required. Planning permission will be required if you intend to sell any produce that has been processed.

Consent will be needed for listed buildings and for proposed developments in conservation areas (known as “conservation area building regulation approval”). Consents may also be required where trees or hedges are to be removed or where a development is likely to affect wildlife and protected species such as bats.

Planning permission is not, however, generally required for agricultural operations, the use of existing buildings on agricultural land for agricultural purposes, small changes to the outside of buildings or changes to the inside of buildings. Planning permission is not normally needed for existing buildings that are run as a farm shop and only sell unprocessed produce produced on the farm where the farm shop is situated.

If your farm has five hectares or more you will have certain “permitted development rights”. These allow you to erect, extend or alter buildings and to carry out excavations and engineering operations. However, such changes must be reasonably necessary for the purposes of agriculture and planning permission may still be required in relation to some aspects of the development.

If you rent your farm you should also obtain your landlord’s consent to the development.

Building control approval for farm shops

Building Control approval is required in relation to certain structural and other types of work. You should, therefore, check whether your local authority’s Building Control Department has any requirements in this regard.

Fire safety requirements for farm shops

It is a requirement, under the Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) 2005, that a “responsible person” carries out a fire risk assessment. Following the risk assessment the responsible person is responsible for implementing appropriate fire safety measures to minimise the risk to life from fire and to keep the assessment up to date. A “responsible person” will normally be the owner or manager of the farm shop.

Fire certificates are no longer required.

Licences for farm shops

The majority of food businesses are required to register their premises with their local authority. The premises for certain types of businesses need to be approved, rather than registered. These include businesses that produce milk and dairy products, eggs, meat and meat products and fish and fish products.

Food safety and hygiene

A food hygiene certificate is required before raw food can be processed or served. A “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points” is also required where food is to be processed.

There are strict European laws relating to food hygiene which are implemented in England by the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006.

Labelling and weights and measures

There are strict requirements relating to the labelling of foods. The Food Labelling Regulations 1996, as amended, applies to most types of foods.

Most food will need to be marked or labelled with the following information:

  • the name of the food;
  • a list of ingredients;
  • an “appropriate durability indication” (i.e. a best before and/or a use by date);
  • any special storage conditions or conditions of use;
  • the name or business name and an address or registered office of either the manufacturer or packer, or a seller established within the European Community or both of them;
  • particulars of the place of origin or provenance of the food if failure to provide such particulars may mislead a purchaser to a material degree as to the true origin or provenance of the food;
  • instructions for use if it would be difficult to make appropriate use of the food in the absence of such instructions.

There are additional regulations which apply to certain types of food such as meat and milk products, fruit and vegetables, eggs, jams and breads.

There are also strict requirements relating to weights and measures. There are several pieces of legislation relating to weights and measures, the main one being the Weights and Measures Act 1985.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.