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Fishing Sporting Right to Land Title Image

Thinking of purchasing rural land? Whilst you would typically expect that only the owner or tenant of a piece of land would have rights to use that land, there are some exceptions. Sporting rights are one such case and before you finalise your decision, it’s crucial to understand the intricacies of sporting rights.

What is a Sporting Right Over Land?

These are rights granted by a landowner to a third-party beneficiary under a licence or lease, the most common being for hunting, fishing, and shooting.  These rights are like easements and can be very difficult to terminate.  A purchaser seeking to purchase land say for development should ensure that the land is not subject to these rights as when a sporting right is given, the beneficiary has the permission to do something on and take something from your land without them having any actual ownership rights to the land itself.

Peech v Best – Development of Land Subject to Sporting Rights

The leading authority is Peech v Best, which involved the owner of 700 acres of land subject to shooting rights who sold 12 acres to a purchaser who intended to develop the land into stables and cottages. The beneficiary of the shooting rights argued that developing this land had the effect of infringing their right to shoot, and therefore constituted a derogation from grant.  The Court of Appeal agreed that development plans on land infringed the beneficiary of the property’s shooting rights, and therefore constituted a ‘derogation from grant’. The person with shooting rights was awarded damages, even though the shooting rights had only four years left to run, and the planned development would have affected only two per cent of the land subject to the shooting rights.

Any licence or lease should set out the rights over the land to the beneficiary to ensure that the extent of the land is clear, the nature of the creatures, instructions on rearing and protection of the creatures, the extent of ownership of creatures when killed and any limitations on the creatures killed, specifications on equipment to be used and access and parking rights.

How to Terminate The Sporting Rights on Land

These are difficult to terminate as they are often created by deed unless agreed between the landowner and the beneficiary of the sporting rights.  It is likely that any beneficiary will be seeking a release payment which can be a substantial payment based on a % of the uplift in the value of the land.  However, if the rights are not being exercised and there are long periods of non-use, the rights can be challenged on the basis of abandonment.

Agricultural Legal Specialists

The DTM legal team have a wealth of experience working within the agricultural sector. Visit our Agricultural Services Page for more details on the array of services we provide or contact Anna Duffy, Head of Property for advice on sporting rights by calling 0151 321 0000. Anna Duffy is recognised as a Leading Individual in Agriculture for the Legal 500 and is a member of the Agricultural Law Association (ALA).

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