August sees the start of the grouse season, also known as the Glorious Twelfth. Shooting parties pay a high price to be amongst the few people allowed to step onto the managed moors and take aim. Given that grouse shoots brought in almost £70million for the rural economy in 2010, according a study by the Moorland Association, more and more landowners are leasing sporting rights for shooting, hunting and fishing.
Establishing the ground rules for granting sporting rights
Says Alistair: “It’s important that the landowner and the sporting tenants establish some ground rules at the early stages of the negotiations. For example, the landowner can specify what quarry can be shot and on what part of their land.
“However, if the terms of the agreement aren’t carefully worded, the landowner could find themselves interfering with the ability of the sporting tenant to exercise their rights, As such, the landowner could be liable for damages even though they’re just continuing to use their land as they always have done. It’s best to involve a solicitor so that issues like this aren’t overlooked.”
Granting sporting rights can be very beneficial for a landowner as the individuals, or sporting syndicates, often invest money to improve their shooting experience, such as game plots, pheasant release pens or shelters.
Alistair continues: “When investing significant capital, sporting tenants may assume that they have access to the land at any time. But they cannot interfere with the working requirements of the landowner, so access needs to be clearly defined in the lease. If they are adding additional stock to the land, sporting tenants also need to consider the impact that an influx of hungry game birds might have on a landowner’s growing crops nearby or increasing fish numbers in an existing river.”
One issue that is often forgotten at the outset is the renewal of the sporting rights lease
Alistair comments: “Most tenants will assume they have an automatic right to renew at the end of the term, especially if they’ve invested significant sums of money to improve the sporting experience. However, should the landowner decide to sell the land or dies, then the sporting tenant could find themselves with multiple landlords, each with whom they would have to negotiate a separate renewal. Any refusals to renew could leave significant gaps in the sporting area.
“This is one of the main reasons why an experienced agricultural solicitor should be consulted at the early stages of negotiating sporting leases as they can consider how to structure the deal for the best and prevent disputes and difficulties further down the line.”
Confidential appointments to discuss agricultural matters can be made at Tallents Solicitors in Southwell.