Wilson Browne has a longstanding relationship with the rural and agricultural sector, having served major landowners and the farming community for many years. Our Agricultural Team is available to give you the independent advice you need, based not only on their expertise but also their understanding of the issues affecting the farming community today.
Some of the specific areas upon which we can advise include:
• Acquisition and disposal of agricultural/rural properties
• Acquisition and disposal of development land, including complex option agreements
• Agricultural business and residential tenancies
• Compulsory acquisition
• Acquisition and grant of easements
• Planning, including alternative uses of redundant farm buildings
• Partnership agreements, share and contract farming agreements
• Employment issues
• Wills and tax planning
Rural properties – acquisition and disposal
The sale and purchase of farms and other rural properties require consideration of many wide-ranging issues. Growing crops, ‘hold over’, IACS, quotas, livestock, employees, environmental matters etc can all be issues that require consideration. In all rural properties there are concerns as to such issues as planning matters, Conservation areas, Listed buildings, rights of way, the potential of the new “Right to Roam”. Wilson Browne have a depth of experience in dealing with rural properties and landed estates so can advise on matters of relevance to you, whether you are buying a small rural cottage of a large estate,
Development land – acquisition and disposal, including complex option agreements
Many landowners have blocks of land that are already in the local plan for potential development, or there is a possibility that the land may become available for development in the future. Developers are always looking for new sites, and are often prepared to enter into long-term agreements to pursue planning consents in the future. Such agreements are often very complex, having to take account of the planning procedures, taxation issues, obligations upon developers with regard to planning agreements etc, possible ransom strips, practical implications of site surveys soil testing etc. We have many years experience in dealing with these matters and can assist in all aspects of the transaction.
With transport systems constantly under review and roads being upgraded or bypasses built the government frequently uses its compulsory purchase powers to acquire land for roads etc. From initial consultations to notices to treat, actual commencement of work on site, advance payment agreements to final transfer of the land and payment to the landowner it can be a very long and complex matter. We have years of experience of working through these procedures.
Owners of agricultural land are often approached to grant rights to adjoining owners, for example for drainage or pipelines, or perhaps rights of way. It is important that the full implications of any grant are considered, and the true value ascertained. If you have a mortgage on the land then the lender will have to agree. It may well be necessary to build in certain restrictions or obligations on the part of the third party to protect the land. To do nothing and let matters go undocumented is a dangerous path – the adjoining owner could acquire a right over a course of time without you even realising it. Come to us before committing yourself and make sure you are fully protected.
Planning legislation today affects all property owners. In the case of agricultural land there can be many issues, particularly as more farmers are diversifying to find alternative sources of income, such as letting or sale of redundant farm buildings etc. It is essential to be aware of the planning implications of any proposed use or development of property, and to ensure when purchasing a property that there are no planning restrictions which may detrimentally affect your proposed use of the property. As part of our service to you we will investigate such matters on your behalf.
Agricultural land has for many years had it’s own particular regulations in relation to tenancies, with the Agricultural Holdings Act and more recently the introduction of Farm Business Tenancies. Also many farmers are today diversifying by the letting out of cottages on residential tenancies and holiday lets, and letting out redundant farm buildings as small industrial units. Therefore one often needs to consider not only the agricultural legislation but also regulations affecting residential lettings and business tenancies. The issues are complex and it important that proper advice is sought before allowing anyone into occupation of property.
Partnership agreements/contract farming and more…
Many farms are still operated as family farming partnerships, but all too often there is no formal written Partnership Agreement, which can cause problems not only in the case of a dispute between the partners, but also on death or in connection with taxation issues. Few, if any, partnerships would actually wish to be run on the basis of the Partnership Act, which is the statutory framework imposed upon partners in the absence of formal agreement on terms. Furthermore, in today’s economy many farms are run on the basis of contract farming, which again needs careful consideration and proper documentation to ensure the agreement between the parties is adequately protected. We at Wilson Browne can advise on all such matters.
Agricultural Disputes: Agricultural Disputes, how to avoid them, and how we can help if it is too late.
From a large label flour and feed manufacturer, to millers, machiners, farmers and those that supply them, the commercial team advises on all manner of supply and business agreements. Getting it right at the outset should avoid disputes, but not every contract is written, and not every written contract deals with a particular set of issues. The dispute resolution lawyers in the team can help with all manner of disputes, including:
- Accidents on the farm
- Farm Property Disputes
- Agricultural Business Insurance disputes
- Claims surrounding nuisance, such as smell, noise or flood
- Farming company or partnership disputes
- Share farming disputes
- Business / farm contract disputes
- Credit control – recovering trade debt, disputed or not – from £10 a letter. We understand that cashflow is the lifeblood of any farm.
- Employment issues – including issues with self employed workers
- Disputes surrounding the sale or purchase of livestock
- Disputes arising from defective farm machinery
- Professional negligence claims
- Claims in relation to seed / feed quality
- Issues arising from auction, and any associated personal guarantees
- Arbitration, adjudication (in the context of farming construction contracts), mediation and all forms of Alternate Dispute Resolution.
The litigation lawyers in the team can operate under a variety of market leading funding options. Click here for more details, including no win no fee.
Wills and Tax planning
It is important for everyone, particularly land owners, to make wills providing for their wishes as to the distribution of their estate on death, but it is even more important when the question of the continuation of the farming business is at stake. Also, one needs to consider taxation issues, such as mitigation of Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax as well as the availability of Agricultural Property Relief and Business Property Relief, all of which we can advise on. Estate planning, including farming and land holding structures, are all matters upon which Wilson Browne can give advice. We can also deal with all aspects of trusts, wills and probate. We have a vast amount of experience in advising farming families on planning for the future
When dealing with the break up of a marriage there are always many complex issues to be taken into account, and of course these need to be dealt with with an understanding of the people and issues at stake. When a farming business is one of the assets in question, there are particular problems, to ensure that the farming business can continue. Often for example, the farmer is “asset rich but cash poor”. Also, the matrimonial home is usually the farmhouse itself, which can lead to its own particular problems. It is important that the person giving advice has experience of dealing with agricultural clients and an understanding of the problems encountered.
Whether your farm or business employs one or one hundred employees’ it is important that everyone is clear on their rights and responsibilities towards each other. Employment law is fast changing and it can be difficult to keep track of the latest requirements. Farming’s tendency to be a family run business, often with reliance on temporary, seasonal workers and agency staff, adds its own complexities. Farmer’s need contracts with their staff to reflect the flexible nature of their businesses. We understand that workers may be needed to work long hours during harvest or lambing, but there will be much quieter times of the year when employers would like to avoid paying employees to sit on their hands. We can design contracts to suit your particular situation. For advice on getting it right in the first place, or what to do if you have an employment issue, please come and speak to us.