Rights of way on agricultural land

Alistair Millar, Partner and head of Agricultural Law at Tallents Solicitors looks at agricultural rights of way

Alistair Millar

“Agricultural land is of no use to anybody if it cannot be accessed. Individual parcels of land can quite often sit a long way from any adopted highway and it is crucial, when buying such land, to establish the full route of any access and the rights of way,” says specialist in agricultural law and partner, Alistair Millar of Tallents Solicitors.

 “The route may cross land that is owned by 3rd parties and a full investigation into how and when any rights of access have been granted, or arisen must be carried out. It is the buyer’s responsibility to check this.

 “Equally, the land being purchased could be subject to rights of way for others and this could have a serious effect on any farming operations.”

 Anticipating access issues for agricultural land

The farming industry is always changing and diversification is now key to any farmer’s plans for the future. It is therefore also important to assess the extent of the right of way and what it can be used for to assess sufficiency of access. Alistair continues:

 “We will always ask our clients for what purpose they intend to use the land, both now and in the future, as rights of way and access may limit any future or different use of the land. That could also have a serious effect on the value of the land.”

 Your solicitor will always investigate the title deeds of the Seller to establish exactly what access rights have already been granted and how valid those rights are. Says Alistair:

“Established rights over a 3rd party’s land cannot usually be altered, although there may eventually be scope for negotiation later. However, this will be a risk if it is something that the buyer is relying on when purchasing the land.”

 Fully establishing rights of way

It may be that the title deeds make no mention of any rights. The onus then is passed to the Seller to supply full details of exactly what rights have been used and how as well as from what date. Your solicitor will need to gather as much evidence as possible to establish whether the rights of way being used by the current owner of the land will be satisfactory for the buyer and, indeed, whether they have been fully established or risk being blocked at some future date. Alistair says:

“Such implied rights of way will probably not work for any change of use in the future and are likely to simply exist for the current and/or historic use of the land. Buyers need to be sure that they will have rights of way to access their land now and in the future.”

 Establishing new rights of way

Where the vendor is selling a parcel of land out of a larger title, then the new rights of way need to be negotiated and agreed to ensure full access to the land. Alistair comments:

 “These new rights of way will have to be considered and drafted very carefully indeed to ensure that they cover all possibilities that the purchasing farmer is likely to require, both now and in the future.

 “They will also need to cover additional rights of way and obligations, such as who is responsible for maintaining any access route to the land.”

 Alistair finishes:

 “Agricultural property transactions can be exceedingly complex, so it definitely pays to speak to a rural legal expert when considering any land purchase to avoid making any expensive or irreversible mistakes.

 “At Tallents Solicitors, we’ve been advising the farmers of North Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire for nearly 245 years, so you know you can rely on our agricultural legal expertise when you need it.”