It goes without saying that agricultural land, like any other property, needs the benefit of appropriate rights of access, services and so on.
If these are documented, then they should obviously be checked to see that they are appropriate for the buyer’s anticipated use. If they are limited to agricultural use only, then this should be made clear to the buyer, who might have plans for future non-agricultural development.
If easements have arisen by prescription, then they are most likely to be limited to agricultural use only (if the land has only been used for agriculture in the past).
Agricultural land is also often the subject of easements benefiting other land. Again, care should be taken to investigate the nature of these rights, and whether their existence in any way prejudices the buyer’s future plans for the land.
If only part of agricultural land is being dealt with, then consideration needs to be given to the grant and reservation of any appropriate mutual rights and / or fencing obligations between buyer and seller.
In this, as in so many other areas, it is crucially important to find out from a purchaser client what his intentions are, particularly if they involve change of use, diversification or further sales on.
Going beyond private rights like easements, one moves into the area of public rights, such as public rights of way, the right to roam, and the creation of commons and village greens. The latter is becoming increasingly popular with those objecting to proposed developments in rural areas.
The possible existence of any one of these could make the purchase of agricultural land for future non-agricultural use a much more time-consuming and complex affair, and may put the whole transaction at risk. As soon as public rights become involved, one moves from a private transaction into one involving political and public influence.
Land may have been partitioned in the past. In this case, restrictive covenants may have been imposed, usually burdening the land previously being sold, and benefiting retained land. It may be that the current buyer of agricultural land wishes to negotiate the release of relevant covenants, or merely to find out who can now enforce them.
If this is the case, then it is important to be able to identify all the land which originally took the benefit of the covenant. If that land has itself been partitioned since the covenant was first imposed, then it will most likely be both or all owners of the original benefited land who must act together to release the covenant.
A release by one will not of itself prevent the covenant being enforced by the other or others.
For further information contact Christopher Wacher on 01227 763939.