Reasons to choose Wilson Browne
The High Court has held that a business had expanded beyond agricultural activities by operating a tearoom alongside a plant nursery.
The defendants (D) owned land that had originally been used for growing bedding plants and vegetables. The land was accessed by a track owned by the claimant (C). D had a right of way over the track “to pass and repass at all times for all purposes in connection with the use of the land conveyed as agricultural land only”. Part of the land was also subject to a covenant restricting its use to agricultural land.
Over 40 years, the business had grown to include polytunnels, outbuildings, stables, a shop and a tearoom. The High Court agreed with C that the current use of the right of way was excessive. The use of the land also breached the covenant requiring agricultural use only. Whether the use of D’s land was for agricultural purposes was a question of fact and degree. While agricultural activities might develop over time, this should not be confused with diversification into non-agricultural activity.
The court considered what activities might be carried on within an agricultural use. On the facts, the combined value of the turnover from the tearoom and other non-agricultural activities at the nursery was so significant that it was not realistic to regard the business as agricultural. C was entitled, in principle, to relief for excessive use and for trespass. The relief was to be determined at a later date.
This decision highlights the need to consider any limitations on an easement that might affect plans to expand and diversify a business. The original purpose, nature and amount of use anticipated at the time of the grant are all relevant. (Mills v Estate of Partridge and another  EWHC 2171 (Ch) (5 August 2020).)
What is clear is that when entering into easements and/or interpreting them down the line, it is important to take legal advice. Our Commercial Property Team have a wealth of experience drafting easements, whilst our Commercial Litigation Team are on hand should you have a dispute over an existing easement; both teams are Legal 500 recognised.