Location:
Vale of Glamorgan
Funding amount:
£4,762
Fferm Twrci Pendoylan

Project description:

The way in which we work is changing.  More people are becoming self employed and seeking to achieve a better work life balance.  This may involve moving to rural areas such as the Vale of Glamorgan and working from home.  Those workers may become isolated and be seeking more opportunities develop their networks and support to grow their business. 

In other rural areas of the UK and Europe, such as Somerset, Wiltshire and Catalonia, incubator / co-working spaces have become popular, offering flexible and friendly office accommodation.

The project has involved the following research / learning: 

  • Workspace needs in the rural Vale survey 
  • Redundant and underused buildings survey  
  • Research into different approaches to co-working space  
  • Inspiring new workspaces events
  • Learning visits

Surveys 

The surveys were launched at the Vale Show in August 2017.  The surveys were publicised through social media, in the Gem and the website.

  • Workspace needs in the rural Vale survey - A survey was developed on Workspace Needs for Businesses in the rural Vale (refer to Appendix 1).  This survey sought to target people who were looking for workspace and find out what their business needs were. There were 23 responses to the survey, however respondents did not answer all the questions.
  • Redundant and underused buildings survey -  A survey was developed on Redundant and Underused Building Survey in the Rural Vale

Flexible Workspace Best Practice

Given the limited workspace offer in the rural Vale, further research was undertaken into the models of workspaces that were available to developing businesses in South Wales and beyond.
Inspiring Workspace Network.

A network was set up to bring together people who are looking for new workspace with people who have redundant or underused spaces they are looking to bring back into use to inspire them into taking action to create new workspaces in the rural Vale.
To enable those coming to the networking to learn more, a series of study visit were organised focusing on different ways of creating inspiring rural workspaces.

Project Results:

The Outcomes – 

  • Developed a good network of people looking for workspaces and those with redundant barns engaging with over 70 participants. 
  • Provided useful feedback on the surveys undertaken to identify what type of space people are looking for and what type of redundant spaces are available.
  • Delivered a number of learning opportunities to inspire people to renovate their redundant buildings including 2 networking events and 3 study visits. 
  • Provided additional one to one support to over 30 people looking for workspaces and approximately 10 landowners with redundant buildings.   
  • Able to provide advice from the knowledge gained through the project and signpost to other agencies eg. Farming Connect, Planning Department or workspace providers. 

Lessons Learnt:

It takes time to develop a network and although part of a learning network, participants will not immediately take action. 
 
Although there are a number of redundant rural buildings in the Vale, it is not a simple exercise to convert them.  There are a number of hurdles that need to be crossed which may prevent people taking action including: 

  • Securing planning permission to convert the building.  Further advise is available in the Supplementary Planning Guidance.
  • Conversion and Renovation of Rural Buildings.  The Vale of Glamorgan’s Local Development Plan Policy MD11 Conversion and Renovation of Rural Buildings gives preference to the conversion of rural buildings for alternative business, community and tourism uses over residential use. 
  • Understanding the tax and accounting issues.  For example taking a building out of agricultural use will remove it from the scope of the value agricultural property relief (APR) from inheritance tax.  It is important to take advice about business structures. 
  • Understanding the business model for the new space and taking the time to develop a business plan. 
  • A newly converted building (eg. An office or workshop) may be subject to business rates. - Securing funds to undertake conversion of buildings.  Some farmers may not have the capital to undertake the conversion works so would need to apply for grant funding eg. Rural Community Development Fund.   
  • Land ownership issues within the family  
  • Legal and insurance considerations.  It is recommended that a lease is set with potential tenants and ensure Fire and workspace health and safety regulations are observed. 
  • Access to superfast broadband is also an important consideration.

What’s next for your project?

  • A number of the network participants have been inspired to create new workspaces including: 
  • Glamorgan Voluntary Services who are in the process of taking over the Western Vale Family Information Centre and Llantwit Major Youth Centre 

A former Turkey Farm in Pendoylan are currently in the process of applying for Rural Community Development Funding to convert a redundant shed into a community venue / shared workspace. 
The project has also led to a greater interest in potential coworking opportunities, particularly for the creative industries sector.  CRC are now involved in the Colabora Cooperation project exploring best practice in rural co-working spaces across Europe.