It’s all too easy to assume that when you buy or lease rural land in England or Wales that as the owner or tenant only you have rights over the land. But there are specific circumstances where people have a right to enter and use your land and one of those is when exercising sporting rights, says Alistair Millar, Partner and Solicitor specialising in agricultural law at Tallents Solicitors. So, if you are considering buying or renting land, what should you be aware of?
What are sporting rights?
Sporting rights are an intangible right in land (known as an ‘incorporeal hereditament’). As such, sporting rights are exercisable over the land unless they have been expressly separated from the land by a deed, or previously reserved.
Sporting rights include hunting, fishing and shooting, and obvious examples are grouse and pheasant shoots, where people pay significant sums for a day’s shooting. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation estimates that grouse shooting alone is worth more than £100m to the economy of England, Scotland and Wales and supports more than 2,500 full-time jobs.
Granting sporting rights
Given their potential to generate substantial income, more and more landowners are separating the sporting rights from their land, known as bestowing a ‘profit a prendre’. This means you have given someone the right to do something on or take something from your land without giving them any ownership rights. This can be done in several ways by the landowner:
- Sell the sporting rights outright to a third party, yet retain the land
- Sell or lease the land, but keep the sporting rights
- Grant a license for the sporting rights over a specific period, which once ended reverts back to the landowner.
Considerations when granting sporting rights
Granting sporting rights can be very beneficial for a landowner as the individuals or sporting syndicates often invest significant sums of money to improve their sporting experience, such as improving game plots, placing pheasant release pens or shelters.
However, it’s very important that the landowner and the sporting tenants establish some clear ground rules at the early stages of the negotiations regarding the grant of reservation, recommends Alistair. The written deed should clearly outline what sporting rights are covered and provisions are granted, such as:
- What game creatures can be shot, hunted or fished and whether than also includes any eggs
- Who owns the kill
- Any limitations of the numbers of game creatures that can be killed
- What sporting equipment can be used and in what form
- Whether advanced notice needs to be given with regards to the exercising of the sporting rights
- Whether a restriction on where shooting can take place on the land (e.g., in proximity to certain buildings, or over the entirety of the estate) should be imposed
- Access and parking to allow the sporting right to be exercised
- Who is responsible for preserving and rearing the specified quarry creatures, and where, and whether additional young can be introduced on neighbouring land
- Who is responsible for feeding game creatures on or above the land
- Whether pens can be erected, or other artificial devices placed
- What land maintenance or clearance can be undertaken by the landlord or the sporting tenant
- How pests, which may threaten the creatures, will be controlled
- Whether the landlord faces any restrictions on using their land to prevent them interfering in the exercise of the sporting rights.
Tallents Solicitors have been working closely with farming families in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire since 1774 and have extensive experience in drafting robust and enforceable grants and deeds for sporting rights. It’s important to be clear and unambiguous when drafting the deed to prevent future disputes and to ensure everyone is clear on the extent of the rights. Our legal and tax experts are here to help farming businesses get appropriate legal documentation in place which will best suit their circumstances.
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