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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T V W Y

Farming Matters

A quarterly newsletter that focuses on current legal and commercial issues facing the agricultural industry, with the latest news, deals and practical advice.

Latest Issue

In the latest edition of Farming Matters we have a varied bulletin looking at post-Brexit issues for British Agriculture, plus features on the risks of railway crossing across your land, changes for landlords for tax allowances when replacing furnishings/furniture and a summary of the wide-ranging changes coming soon on renting in Wales. Finally, we have a guest feature from the NWF Group and how they help farmers delivering feed, food and fuel across the UK.

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Watching Brief: Post-Brexit for the agricultural sector

Wednesday 26th October 2016

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Farming Matters - Issue 18

We have of course since  the last issue of Farming Matters received the Brexit result which came as a surprise to many. At the time of writing the ability for the government to invoke Article 50 and trigger the UK’s exit from Europe without the prior consent of Parliament is being challenged. Assuming this challenge is not upheld the government has indicated that it is looking to trigger the exit next Spring. 

There has already been a lot of conjecture as to how the vote will affect the rural community. However until the government sets out its proposals the conjecture is just that. The government has confirmed that the basic payments will remain in place until 2020. Whilst this confirmation is welcome it does not much change the position given that the expected period for exiting Europe is two years from the date that Article 50 is triggered which brings us close to 2020 when the next cycle of subsidy payments will start. However,  at least farm budgets can be set until 2020 but after then the position is unclear. As already demonstrated by the announcement by the National Trust there will be many interested parties voicing their opinion as to the extent and how farming subsidies should be available. 

The vote has already had an effect on the labour market with crop farmers in East Anglia reporting that workers from EU countries are looking at working in other countries for next year’s harvest. This is due to the weakening of the pound against the Euro following the vote and the uncertainty as to how workers can enter the country.

The firm’s employment team has produced a summary of the current position and the challenges in the workplace, which you can read by following this link 'Watching brief: Brexit and Employment Law'.

The regulatory position both in respect of trade and day to day operations remains the same. The indication is that following the exit from Europe the regulatory position will not alter until the government has decided what change if any can be made. The trading position will be the greatest focus and given that Europe is this country's biggest and most accessible market the deal that is agreed should be of the most importance to our farmers. In summary it is a waiting game.

Need advice or wish to talk to us?
 
If you would like to discuss any issues you may have around Brexit and the issues for the agricultural sector please do not hesitate to contact:
 
Partner, Real Estate
Tel: 01772 229 829

 


Private Railway Crossings: Risks, practicalities and potential liabilities

Wednesday 26th October 2016

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Farming Matters - Issue 18 

Did you know that there are approximately 2,000 private railway crossings on the mainline railways across England and Wales?
 
Brabners are pleased to be able to offer through one of our contacts, a free training session dealing with risks, practicalities and potential liabilities of owning/permitting the use of private railway crossings on your land.
 
Six sessions are run every year by the Office of Rail and Road at a dummy crossing in Rugeley and are booked on a first come first served basis.
 
Interested in attending the training session?
 
Please contact Adam Meredith on Adam.Meredith@orr.gsi.gov.uk who will be pleased to provide more information about the sessions and how you can benefit from attending.
 
Further reading: Farmers Weekly 9 September 2016
Farmers Weekly recently published a double-page article looking at how farmland railway crossings can pose big risks to workers, sometimes even when properly used.
To read the feature follow this link: "On the tracks: Level-headed thinking vital"
Picture for this article courtsey of Farmers Weekly.
 
If you need to discuss any land related law matters, please do not hestitate to contact Rupert Jackson:
 
Partner, Real Estate, Head of Agriculture & Landed Estates
Tel: 0151 600 3396
 
 

NWF Group - The Feed, Food and Fuel Group

Wednesday 26th October 2016

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Farming Matters - Issue 18

In this guest advertorial feature, Richard Whiting, Chief Executive from the NWF Group PLC, provides an insight into their specialist agricultural and distribution business which delivers feed, food and fuel across the UK. With a heritage in the agricultural sector, established in 1871, the Group has over 140 years’ experience in adding value to its customers’ businesses.

Across the Group, customer service is the number one priority. Whether it is delivering in excess of 99.7% service to supermarkets in food, reaching nine out of ten callers who have run out of fuel on the same day or delivering to farm within 24 hours when needed by farmers, the business strives to provide the highest quality of service in all areas. 
 

At NWF Agriculture we believe in providing feeds for a better future 

NWF Agriculture has grown to be a leading national supplier of ruminant animal feed, feeding one in six dairy cows in Britain.
 
The business supplies over 4,700 farmers from Scotland to Cornwall and it is the key area for the Group’s development investment which is expected to continue adding acquisitions to the business as demonstrated by the acquisition of S.C. Feeds in 2013, New Breed in 2015 and Jim Peet in 2016. 
 
“A key priority for us, is to increase the nutritional focus in the Feeds division; by providing more advice and value added products to our farming customers, we will help improve their business performance as well as strengthen our long-term relationships with them.”  
 
Key strengths are in providing:
 
  • High product quality 
  • Technical support for farmers to improve yields and farm profitability
  • Class leading customer service
  • Efficient transport fleet delivering direct to farm.

"All our feeds are backed by our extensive technical services to ensure stock perform to their potential. Our sales team provide expert advice and solutions to help farm businesses. We also supply forage additives, grass and forage seeds, calf milk replacers, minerals and a range of speciality feeds."

“Whatever your farming system we can meet your needs for compound feeds, blends and straights.”
 
To speak to your local NWF Sales Specialist or for further information please call us on 0800 756 2787 or you can contact us via our website www.nwfagriculture.co.uk.
 

At NWF Fuels we understand the needs of the farming community

NWF Fuels understand farmers expect outstanding service and a fair price. With an extensive fleet of modern tankers and strategically located depot network, NWF Fuels are able to offer an unrivalled delivery service. 
 
Delivering top quality fuels and lubricants supported by outstanding personal service.
 
“NWF Fuels can keep you warm throughout the year whilst providing local, expert knowledge about heating oil and your heating oil needs”.
 
NWF Fuels employ local people with local knowledge based at fuel depots throughout England and Wales providing an outstanding knowledge of each area and fuel in stock offering an unrivalled delivery service. 
 
“Our tanker drivers are the familiar face of NWF Fuels to our customers and they are totally dedicated to delivering your fuel safely and on time”. 
 
In addition to supplying top quality home heating oil, NWF Fuels also provide the following services:
 
  • Local and emergency deliveries
  • Never run out of oil with our regular top-up service
  • Pay by easy monthly Direct Debit with our Heatplan Account
  • Boiler servicing and tank replacement
  • Timed deliveries and pre delivery notifications.
We know farmers don't stop at the weekend and neither do we, to find out more about NWF Fuels please call us on 0800 0289977 or visit our website www.nwffuels.co.uk.
 
How we can help your business...    
 
If you would like to know more about the NWF Group and how we can be of help to your farming business I would be delighted to hear from you, please write to us at investor.relations@nwf.co.uk.  

Richard Whiting, Chief Executive.
 
NWF Group PLC
Wardle, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 6BP
Tel: 01829 260260
 
If your company has a product or service for the Agricultural sector that you believe would make an interesting feature in this bulletin please contact Rupert Jackson to discuss.

No more wear and tear: Changes to the tax allowance for replacing furnishings and furniture for landlords

Wednesday 26th October 2016

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Farming Matters - Issue 18 

Key reforms from this year’s Government Budget, mean that the tax position for individuals letting residential properties will change in the next few years. The provisions introducing these changes are contained in sections 73 and 74 of the Finance Act 2016.

The Finance Bill 2016 will repeal the ‘wear and tear’ and renewals allowances for property businesses and introduce a new deduction for capital expenditure incurred by landlords on replacing furnishings, appliances and kitchenware provided for use by a lessee in a dwelling-house. These measures are effective from 1 April 2016 for corporation tax and 6 April 2016 for income tax.

Previous position

The previous position under the old ‘wear and tear allowance’ system was that before April 2016, landlords of fully furnished residential properties could deduct 10 percent of the rent from their profit to account for wear and tear. Regardless of whether any such expenditure had been incurred, this was an allowance given to landlords for the dilapidation of any furniture, furnishings and equipment within the property. This allowance was however, capped at 10% and as the relief was calculated as 10 % of the amount of the rental income received, the Government realised that similar properties in different parts of the country would attract differing levels of allowance, despite having incurred the same expenditure. The fact that this allowance was also not available to businesses that let part-furnished or unfurnished homes, has led to the Government abolishing this allowance.

New replacement relief allowance

Under the new system (from 1 or 6 April 2016 onwards), the new ‘replacement relief’ allowance, enables all landlords of residential properties to deduct the costs of replacing furnishings in their property. To qualify for this replacement relief, landlords must have incurred the capital cost of replacing furniture, appliances and kitchenware. These items must be provided for the tenant’s use in the dwelling house and the cost would be a deductible expense as a repair to the property itself. Crucially, it is now only the net costs that can be deducted as opposed to 10% of the rental income. The new relief will not apply to landlords claiming rent-a room relief and the relief will not apply to furnished holiday letting businesses.

Managing your tax liability

In terms of managing tax liability, individual landlords may be able to time their spending on replacement furnishing shrewdly. If an individual landlord is expecting a large profit from a property let, they may wish to invest in replacing domestic items before the end of the tax year so as to reduce their tax liability for that tax year. Likewise, if an individual landlord is making a loss but believes it can make a profit the next year, then there may be benefits in delaying any replacement until after 6 April, so as to shift the cost into the next tax year. 

The new relief is designed to create greater consistency and fairness across the residential letting sector. Landlords of fully furnished property who had been benefiting from the wear and tear allowance, will however have an increased tax liability if they usually spend less than the 10% allowance. The new system also means increased administrative costs and burden, as landlords will be required to keep a detailed record of their actual expenditure and to retain original receipts. Concerns have been expressed that landlords will seek to recoup their costs by hiking up rents.

If you would like to discuss any issues about these changes or for any other tax related matter please do not hesitate to contact:


Mark Whiteside

Partner, Corporate
Tel: 0151 600 3269
Email: mark.whiteside@brabners.com


Renting homes in Wales: A look at the wide-ranging changes coming into force in the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016

Wednesday 26th October 2016

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Farming Matters - Issue 18

The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 (RHWA 2016) aims to consolidate and modernise the existing complex raft of legislation into one new piece of legislation. When it comes into force, the RHWA 2016 will significantly reform the basis on which residential property in Wales is let.

The RHWA 2016 (Commencement No.1) Order 2016 has been made, bringing certain provisions into force from 5 August 2016 for the purposes of making regulations and issuing guidance.

The wide-ranging implications include the following:

  • By creating two new forms of occupation contract:
  1. The standard contract, modelled on the present assured shorthold tenancy (AST); and
  2. The secure contract, modelled on the present secure tenancy currently issued by local authorities.
  • If a tenancy or licence meets certain criteria it will be an occupation contract and subject to the provisions of the RHWA 2016.
     
  • It will convert the majority of existing agreements for residential occupation, including licences, into occupation contracts.
     
  • It will introduce a right of succession to some occupation contracts.
     
  • Occupation contracts must include certain terms that cannot be varied unless the variation improves the tenant's/licensee's position.
     
  • It introduces a new tenancy deposit scheme which will apply to all occupation contracts including licences and common law tenancies.
     
  • It is important to consult the RHWA 2016 carefully as it changes certain fundamental property law principles. For instance, an underlease granted for the remainder of the head lease term will still be an underlease and will not take effect as a transfer, unlike in England.
     
  • The RHWA 2016 will require landlords to issue a written statement of the occupation contract which sets out the parties’ rights and responsibilities. The new duties will include obligations on landlords to carry out repairs and ensure properties are fit for human habitation.
     
  • The RHWA 2016 also contains detailed provisions on terminating occupation contracts. For example, it aims to protect people from being evicted simply for complaining about a property’s condition. An occupation contract under the RHWA 2016 can only be terminated in accordance with the RHWA 2016 (section 148, RHWA 2016). It is important to note that the right to forfeit or serve a common law notice to quit are specifically excluded as methods of terminating an occupation contract (section 232, RHWA 2016).
Section 7 sets out the types of tenancies and licences that are occupation contracts. A tenancy or licence is an occupation contract if all of the following apply (subject to the exceptions laid out in Schedule 2):
 
Rent or other consideration (such as providing a service) is payable under it.
 
It is made between a landlord and an individual (or two or more persons, at least one of whom is an individual).
 
It confers on the individual(s) the right to occupy a dwelling as a home.
 
If you would like to discuss any issues you may have about property in Wales and these changes please do not hestitate to contact:
 
Partner, Real Estate, Head of Agriculture & Landed Estates
Tel: 0151 600 3396

Brexit – decision time: An update on the latest opinions for landowners and farmers

Tuesday 21st June 2016

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Farming Matters - Issue 17

It is now only a matter of days before the EU referendum on the 23 June. Since the last edition of Farming Matters there has been much opinion voiced on trying to predict the implications for British Agriculture if the UK left the EU. I highlighted in my article in the last edition of Farming Matters (which you can read here) that the main areas of concern for those in the agriculture sector were payment support, trade, regulations and migrant workers. Clearly if the implications were worse than the current position then it would suggest that the sensible decision would be to remain in the EU.

To assist a number of reports have been prepared by bodies interested in the agricultural sector. The National Farmers Union (NFU) commissioned a report by the Wageningen University which looked at three different trade scenarios with three different levels of direct payment support (status quo, 50% reduction and no support). The conclusion was that the biggest drive review UK farm income changes is the level of public support payments available. Therefore the loss of these support payments offset positive pricing impacts in all of the scenarios. On the 18 April the NFU Council issued a resolution that on the balance of the evidence available the interest of farmers was best served by the UK continuing its membership of the EU. 

Whilst the NFU is seen as the voice of the farmer, the Country Land Business Association (CLA) is regarded as the voice of landowners. The CLA produced its own report for its members, and whilst the CLA is remaining impartial on the vote the report’s main focus is to emphasise the uncertainty that rural businesses face if the vote is to leave. The report suggests that the £3.87 billion EU CAP spend in the UK in 2013 resulted in a £10 billion contribution to the EU economy including more 350,000 jobs and 3.5 billion in tax revenue. One of the CLA’s main concerns is that the Government has not provided a Plan ‘B’ for agriculture in the event that the vote is for exit. Those in favour of leaving the EU have indicated for example that payment support would remain, but that the total budget would be lower than that currently received from the EU. However, this is only an indication and may not become policy.

Agra Europe (an EU Agriculture and Food Publication) highlighted that an EU exit would be “traumatic” for the UK Farming industry with large cuts in farm incomes, bankruptcies, falling land prices and the elimination of small and medium sized farms as well as increased barrier to export and lost markets. Taken together with the NFU and CLA reports, the evidence would suggest that there is no reason for anyone connected with agriculture to vote to leave the EU. However despite this evidence, there still remains the doubt of whether the position could be improved if the UK left the EU and went on its own.

Some would say that the “traumatic” position put forward by Agra Europe is already happening, for example in the dairy sector, so continued membership of the EU will not guarantee survival. This is reflected in a survey in April 2016 by Farmers Weekly which showed that whilst 58% of farmers were planning to vote to leave CBI Reports show that almost 80% of UK businesses want to remain in the UK. A contrast perhaps between the individual and the corporation which has various stakeholders to answer to. For many the decision will be whether to listen to your head or go with your heart! 

In the next issue of Farming Matters the result will be known and we will report on the consequences of the vote.

In the meantime, if you have any queries we would be happy to discuss any concerns you may have.


Charles Hansford

Partner, Real Estate
Tel: 01772 229 829
Email: charles.hansford@brabners.com


Compulsory Purchase: A look at the key issues if your land is affected

Tuesday 21st June 2016

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Farming Matters - Issue 17

Compulsory Purchase has begun to receive significant media coverage in recent weeks.

This was already in the news due to HS2, a new infrastructure project on a national scale. HS2 continues to attract controversy. The Queen’s Speech on 18 May highlighted further proposals contained in a Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill. This aims to establish a clear new statutory framework for agreeing compensation when land is compulsorily purchased.

Many important infrastructure projects are already going forward at a local level. Where Councils have money available under the City Deal, there is real political will to deliver new infrastructure. This affects private householders and, of course, landowners.

New roads can bring significant benefits to a community and indeed can bring ‘windfall’ benefits to landowners, if land is made more accessible/developable as a result. However, for every landowner in favour of new development there will be at least one who is opposed to it. In particular, farmers and estate owners may not wish to see a new road crossing land which has been in their family for generations.

Few of those affected will have any knowledge of the Compulsory Purchase procedure. It is important to note that “the clue is in the name” – a purchase is compulsory and not by agreement. The acquiring authority has statutory powers to acquire the land against the owners’ will and will use them if necessary.

Take professional advice early on

Having said that, however, it is important for anyone affected by a Compulsory Purchase scheme to take professional advice early on. The local authority will often attempt to acquire land by agreement.  The Compulsory Purchase procedure will be invoked, but – at least at the outset – this is very much a backup. It is faster and less costly for the local authority to reach agreement with the owners of land affected, rather than going through the full Lands Tribunal process for valuation or indeed the court process in order to obtain a forced transfer of land.

Brabners have acted on Compulsory Purchase matters and are involved with a number of schemes across the country. It is essential to instruct a solicitor and land agent who are familiar with the process. They can act to put the owners’ case across to the acquiring authority when both sides are hoping to reach agreement. This is the best way to minimize the land-take and to bring the concerns of the landowner to the attention of the authority at an early stage.

Unfortunately for those who do not wish to part with their land, there is no legal remedy against Compulsory Purchase. It is better to instruct professionals to act for you in negotiations with the acquiring authority, so that an acceptable result can be achieved.

The principle of forced deprivation of land can cause extreme distress to the landowner and in order to minimize the distress of the inevitable, anyone who is approached by a local authority in the context of the Compulsory Purchase should contact their professional advisers as soon as possible.

Landowners should not conduct negotiations themselves, but should involve advisers at an early stage - the local authority must bear the cost of legal and surveyors’ advice in this scenario.

Need advice or wish to talk to us?

If you would like to discuss any specific matter you might be dealing with or for any Compulsory Purchase concerns please do not hesitate to contact:


Helen Ryan

Associate, Real Estate
Tel: 01772 229 801
Email: helen.ryan@brabners.com


Agricultural diversification: Dotting the i's and crossing your t's

Tuesday 21st June 2016

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Farming Matters - Issue 17

Political, social and economic factors over recent years have meant that diversification in agricultural circles is now in many cases a financial necessity to ensure survival.

Those currently considering diversification have some advantages over their colleagues forced to do so earlier – not least because there are now many examples of what may work, and what has failed to have the desired effect in the recent past.

As an example of what has previously failed, and after many farmers and land owners elected to diversify into solar farming, DEFA withdrew Farm Subsidy Payments from certain projects in 2015, saying the cessation of payments was “designed to stop productive farmland being “blighted” by solar farms, to ensure more agricultural land is dedicated to growing crops and food”.

Successful examples of agricultural diversification include:

  • Using parcels of land for development (both residential and commercial);
     
  • Changing redundant agricultural buildings under permitted development into commercial or residential uses;
     
  • Utilising buildings and land for events, both large scale and small - from festivals to celebratory events such as weddings and children’s birthday parties;
     
  • Alternate farming, including wind and water;
     
  • Short-term residential offerings - B&Bs, camping and glamping;
     
  • Utility masts;
     
  • Waste;
     
  • Livery.

There are also alternative diversification projects, ranging from bio-diversity fuels and the crops required to produce them, to farm anaerobic digestion, although one should be aware that the latter involves the navigation of a complex regulatory system.

Deciding to diversify and how to diversify are the first steps on the pathway. Once determined, the next issue is putting in place the correct legal structures to best suit and protect your existing business, being mindful of securing your future and your futures future.

Aspects to consider start from the very basics of, for example, the business structure. Is the diversification project going to be say, a limited company which rents the land and buildings it utilises from the farm or land-owner as a separate legal entity, or will it co-exist within the current business structure? There are both financial and legal implications of the various options, and early advice is crucial to ensure the benefits of the project are maximised in this regard.

Another aspect for consideration are planning requirements; from determining whether the project requires it, and if so, the application process (including, if necessary, the appeal process). Incidentally, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs currently have recently held an open rural planning review, regarding the effectiveness of the current planning system in rural areas and improvements that could be made. It closed on 21st April.

The level of respective ease or difficulty in the planning process depends on many variables, from what the diversification project precisely entails, to potential impact on the surrounding area. As an example, in 2015, the Secretary of State upheld a refusal of planning relating to a wind farm in Derbyshire, initially refused due to the impact on the surrounding area, that being local heritage sites including Grade I and II* listed buildings.

Should planning be permitted, land owners and tenants still need to ensure the diversification project doesn’t become a nuisance actionable in law.

In 2014, the Supreme Court considered a case where a stadium and track built on agricultural land were used for speedway, stock car and banger racing. The planning permission had been granted in 1975, and had been used for stock car and banger racing from 1984. In 2006 nearby new neighbours started complaining about the noise, and took legal action commencing in 2008.

The Court considered whether having valid planning permission was effectively a defence, and determined not – so although the land-owner had been effectively granted permission to use his land in that way, it did not protect him from a claim.

As can be seen from the limited number of aspects covered here, there is a lot to think about when looking at diversification, and having experienced, trusted advisors can be crucial to the success of the project. 

Need advice or wish to talk to us?

If you would like to discuss any matters about diversification and how we can help you please do not hesitate to contact:

Head of Agriculture & Landed Estates
Tel: 0151 600 3396

 

 

First featured in Diversify Now, June 2016.


A blow for private landowners whose land abuts water and/or is subject to accretion?

Tuesday 21st June 2016

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Farming Matters - Issue 17

Here we take a look at the implications following the Lynn Shellfish Ltd v Loose case.

The judgment of the Supreme Court on 13 April 2016 will have an impact on any landowner whose land abuts water or whose land is subject to accretion; by natural causes or otherwise.

The issue in this case focused on the extent of an exclusive prescriptive right to take cockles and muscles from a stretch of foreshore in Norfolk.

The Respondents (the Estate) were the owners of a substantial amount of land adjoining a foreshore who had the exclusive right to fish in a stretch of the foreshore. Both the land and the right had been in the Estate’s family for generations. In 1970, the Estate granted a lease of the exclusive right to fish to Mr Loose, who at the time of the appeal, was holding over under that lease. The Appellants were individuals and companies who operated fishing boats in Norfolk. In the summer of 2007, the Appellants fished for cockles in areas which the Respondents claimed were covered by their exclusive right to fish.

The two issues between the parties concerned (i) the boundary of the Estate’s right, namely which measure of the low water mark the Estate’s right extended to and (ii) whether the Estate’s right extended to sandbanks which, whilst previously not, were now attached to the foreshore.

The Supreme Court held that the lowest astronomical tide was the more appropriate seaward boundary to select for the area covered by the right to fish. This will be seen as a victory for owners of exclusive rights to fish as the Court selected the most extreme low water mark, despite the fact that it only occurs once in every 18.6 years. The Court clearly felt that certain parts of the foreshore should not be excluded simply because they are only exposed once every so many years. It remains to be seen whether this wide interpretation of the exclusive right will extend to other profits a prendre.

Sandbank decision

However, the Court’s decision in relation to the sandbanks was not so favourable to the Estate. The Court drew a distinction between the boundary of the right in terms of the low tide mark and in terms of the sandbanks which had now become attached to the foreshore. The Court held that the low tide mark shifted gradually over time, whereas the attachment of the previously detached sandbanks must have happened at one moment in time. This was despite the fact that their attachment would have been caused by the gradual silting up of a channel between the sandbanks and the foreshore. The Court held that, up until the precise moment the sandbanks became attached, the public had a right to take shellfish from that sandbank (and in some cases there was evidence that the public had exercised that right).

The Respondents had also sought to rely on the doctrine of accretion under which the boundary and extent of land can increase or decrease over time. Again the Court rejected this argument as accretion must be caused by gradual and imperceptible changes, whereas the sandbanks would have become attached to the foreshore at a specific moment in time. For this reason, the Estate’s right to fish did not extend to the sandbanks now attached to their land.

The impact of this case remains to be seen, however, it will clearly have an impact on land bounded by water and may also have an impact on other land which is subject to change. It would appear to be a blow to private landowners who may be prevented from making gains in land at the expense of the public.

Need advice or wish to talk to us?

If you would like to discuss any matters about the issues raised here or for any other land related matter you may have please do not hesitate to contact:


Rupert Jackson

Head of Agriculture & Landed Estates
Tel: 0151 600 3396
Email: rupert.jackson@brabners.com

 

Rebecca Benbow
Trainee Solicitor, Real Estate
Tel: 0151 600 3129
Email: rebecca.benbow@brabners.com


Property developer ordered to pay a record £10,730 for destroying a bat roost

Tuesday 21st June 2016

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Farming Matters - Issue 17

A UK property developer has been ordered to pay a total of £10,730 following a criminal conviction for destroying a bat roost.

Isar Enterprises received the record financial order at Derby Crown Court in March 2016. The fine followed a criminal conviction received by the company for undertaking redevelopment at an office premises in Matlock without obtaining a licence to remove a roost of bats at the premises.

In sentencing the company Judge John Burgess accepted that the offence had not been committed intentionally but did believe the company had been negligent in its actions. The company were fined £3,000, ordered to pay costs in the sum of £2,000 and given a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act totalling £5,730.

In the UK all bat species are considered to be a protected species and are therefore protected by legislation. This legislation also creates criminal offences to deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat; intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost or deliberately disturb a group of bats; damage or destroy a bat roosting place; possess or advertise, sell or exchange a bat or part of a bat and intentionally or recklessly obstruct access to a bat roost. 

Licence is required

It is possible, in certain circumstances, to obtain a licence to undertake the activities above which would otherwise be illegal. Failure to do so during development can result in criminal prosecutions against both a company and an individual. This process can, however, be somewhat costly and lengthy because they are decided on individual merits and based on expert evidence.

Natural England, who are responsible for the protection of bats and other protected species, appear to have recognised the concerns for property developers and have recently conducted a public consultation on the licensing of protected species. Natural England have consulted on proposals to introduce four new policies for protected species licensing and say the aim of the new policies is to achieve better outcomes for protected specifies but to also reduce costs, delays and uncertainty for developers. The consultation period closed on the 7th April 2016 and the outcome is awaited.

Need advice or wish to talk to us?

If you have any concerns about the presence of any protected species and the requirement for a licence to carry out any work please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Planning and Environmental team.


Victoria Tague

Solicitor, Planning and Environmental team
Tel: 0151 600 3308
Email: victoria.tague@brabners.com


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