When buying land for the purpose of country pursuits or when planning on taking part in country sports on others’ land it is important to know what sporting rights exist and who they belong to.
In addition to the legal issues surrounding sporting rights themselves, certain types of country pursuit are also subject to specific pieces of additional legislation.
The Basics of Sporting Rights
Generally, sporting rights exist as part of the land that they relate to. However, rights can become separated from the land either through licensing or leasing or by being held as a separate registered interest. In the latter case they are known as profit a prendre.
Individuals participating in country pursuits must be aware that they require authority from the person who holds the sporting rights to enter the land for sporting purposes. If they do not then they will be trespassing.
It is a criminal offence to shoot, even accidentally, on or into land you do not have permission to enter for that purpose.
Understanding Profit a Prendre
Profit a prendre are rights to do something on and take something from the land that are separated from ownership of the actual land itself. The most common examples are shooting or fishing.
As profit a prendre can be detached from the land itself, e.g. it is possible that the owner of the land to which the rights refer does not actually own the rights to shoot for fish on their own land; this can complicate the process of buying, particularly if country pursuits are one of the reasons for buying. Complicating matters further, it is also possible for different people to own different profit a prendre to the same piece of land.
Therefore, prior to buying land it is important to find out who does own these rights and specifically what they relate to, such as what can be shot and when or if the rights are being leased.
Where the land subject to sporting rights is registered land, it is possible for the profit a prendre to be registered with the Land Registry. Indeed, the best way to protect such a right is having it granted by a deed and to have the right registered. Then the right is legally set out in writing and cannot be disputed. It is possible to obtain a profit a prendre through long use although a high burden of proof makes this difficult.
Another consideration for buyers if to check that they will enjoy the necessary rights which make the profit a prendre workable - there is no point having the right to fish in a river if you cannot access the river without trespassing on someone else’s land.
Other Legislation Related to Country Pursuits
Other laws affecting country pursuits include the Hunting Act 2004 which outlawed the hunting of all wild animals with dogs (except in limited circumstances), the Game Act 1831 which determines the seasons for shooting game birds and the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 making the ‘occupier’ liable for damage to person or property occurring on their land.
Ascertaining what sporting rights exist over land can be a complex business. If there is a dispute over sporting rights or buyers of land would like to know who holds such rights they should seek specialist legal advice. For more information contact Peter Gourri today by email PGourri@rollingsons.co.uk or telephone 0207 611 4848.