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26.05.05
Pampered pets provide farm with second income

A new five star kennelling facility for dogs and cats across the region is preparing to open its doors thanks to enterprising sheep farmers Richard and Barbara Bennett. Lower Norton Farm Kennels & Cattery is a farm diversification scheme, near Stoke Climsland, which has been given a lead by Business Link Devon and Cornwall and received investment via two Objective One delegated investment schemes.

The new purpose built luxury kennels and cattery, which boards up to 25 dogs and 20 cats, are the result of four years of business planning following the foot and mouth outbreak back in 2001. Barbara Bennett comments: "We lost 700 sheep in the foot and mouth outbreak, through welfare, which wiped out our seasons lamb sales and ultimately our farm income. It was at that point we decided to diversify to ensure our livelihood on the farm was more sustainable.”

Barbara has previous kennelling experience and thought an opportunity existed that could complement the sheep farming year. She started by researching a wide range of kennels in Bristol to find out what worked and what type of facilities were available in East Cornwall. Although she now believes market provision in the district is probably reaching saturation she identified that no one was catering for the luxury end of the pooch and puss boarding market. "Once we decided we wanted to provide the very best in pet care and facilities we refused to compromise on the quality, specification and size of kennels,” says Barbara.

The results are evident. The kennels are all over 54 square feet providing an exercise run and separate sleeping accommodation with under floor heating. Whilst each cat has its own 'cat nap' box, complete with under bed heating and cat flap leading out to a two level run. Additionally there are larger and interconnecting units to enable family pets to stay together.

The Bennett's received advice from Business Link Devon and Cornwall and 50% investment from the Rural Business Support Initiative towards their planning process whilst the Rural Diversification Capital Grant Initiative assisted them with business planning and 25% of their capital development costs.

The schemes are designed to enable farmers to review their on farm business activities and resources to identify new income sources to ensure the farm is sustainable. This theme is reflected by planning authorities as the planning consent has a 106 obligation, which ensures the kennels are totally integrated within the farm operations.

Marilyn Pryor, Business Link's contract manager for the Rural Diversification Capital Grant Initiative said: "The Bennett’s reviewed their skills, resources on the farm and their passion for dogs and cats to develop a complementary new income source for the farm and once underway the project should be supporting both a full time and two part time positions. This is an excellent example of farm diversification where the new business complements the farming business.”

Barbara says: "Business Link have supported us throughout the project and when we submitted our claims we received their contribution in less than ten days, which has not only helped us proceed with the project but has ensured we have had no cash flow concerns.”

The Bennett's planning and hard work is already well on track with occupancy for their first month of trading in June already at 20%. They are planning on a busy summer caring for other people's beloved pets.

For further information contact Carolyn Daw of The Marketing-PR Company Ltd on 01566 771863 or email: cdaw@marketing-pr.co.uk.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Rural Diversification Capital Grant Initiative and the Rural Business Support Initiative through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

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Editor's notes:

 

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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