A new venture will see a family-run farm turned into a farm shop and café/restaurant with an outdoor children’s play area.

Sid McAuley bought Gripps Farm in Brotton Road, Brotton, in 2022 with the intention of retiring there, but hit upon the idea of drawing an income from it by expanding its offer and opening to the public.

Last month Redcar and Cleveland Council granted change of use planning permission for extensive plans to transform the farm, which include new holiday lets, a farm shop, licensed café and restaurant, children’s play area and petting farm.

Mr McAuley said: “I am a Brotton lad and have quite a lot of businesses in the area, although I am not a farmer by background.

“I bought the farm as a retirement place to live, then realised that it could create an income for my daughter.

“It’s a working farm – arable – and we have brought back livestock to the farm with cattle and sheep and donkeys and pigs.

“We’re adding a traditional farm shop and café/restaurant with an outdoor children’s play area and seating.

“Alongside that there will be an internal petting farm in an existing barn, along with a viewing area and a trail where people can walk around and see highland cattle and those sorts of things.

The Northern Farmer: Sid McAuley, second from left, pictured with son Jordan, daughter Kerys and wife Tracy at Gripps Farm

“We have also got two holiday lets – old piggeries which will be converted into luxury holiday lets.”

He said “quirky” animals such as llamas and peacocks would join traditional farm animals at the site.

Meanwhile, the farm shop and café would be selling as much local produce as possible, while also working with local suppliers trading in bespoke handmade goods.

Construction work has started based on designs drawn up by Rob Henderson, of Redcar-based LJC Architectural Design, a partner in the project.

Mr McAuley said it was anticipated between 20 and 30 new jobs would be created by the venture which is set to open between April and June.

The farm intends to open to the public seven days a week.

The Northern Farmer: A visualisation showing outdoor seating and a play area at the Gripps Farm development

He said: “We’re on the main coastal road between Saltburn and Whitby just off the Brotton bypass and there is nothing in East Cleveland like this at all.

“We’ve had so much support and this is an attraction that will bring in tourism and money into the area.

“We also want it to have a community element with local schools and charities able to come and visit.”

The plans also include demolishing redundant farm buildings and converting others, and creating a new car park with 44 spaces.

An internal access road is also being widened allowing improvements to a junction with the main road to  be made.

Mr McAuley added: “We are right on the Cleveland Way with public footpath access also down to Skinningrove beach, which is one of the hidden gems on our coastline.

“We hope that people will not just utilise the farm, but they’ll also take advantage of our good local links, it’s a good location.”

He said he intended to create a granny annex for he and his wife to live in and operate some of his other businesses from offices to be built at the farm site.

His daughter Kerys also intends to run her own business from the farm, KM Equine Freelance Services specialising in horse livery.

Mr McAuley is chief executive officer of HL Group, which describes itself as a world leader in mechanical, electrical and construction activities with a particular focus on agriculture builds.

It is also the main developer on Skelton industrial estate where it has been involved in building a number of commercial units.

Mr McAuley, whose son Jordan is a business development director with the company, also has local business interests in residential care and a Middlesbrough-based kitchen and bedroom company.

A council officer’s report summarised responses from members of the public to the plans with the majority consisting of positive comments, including “great attraction for East Cleveland which is badly needed” and “will bring more tourism to help support local businesses”.

The report said the plans concurred with council policy being the “diversification of an existing agricultural activity and to create a tourist proposal”, albeit being outside traditional development limits.

It said they were of a design and scale in keeping with the agricultural nature of the site and would protect the special character of the heritage coast.

A supporting design, access and heritage statement submitted to the council as part of the planning application said there were “no other comparable ventures within the area”.

It said the farm had previously been “extremely dilapidated” and it would be “vastly improved”, generating employment and economic growth.