Our expert answers two key questions on land and sporting rights
Q: I have been invited to buy sporting rights over a piece of land. The land is managed with wildlife in mind and would make a good small shoot. My question is, what happens if a future landowners manages the land in such a way that shooting is no longer practical or worthwhile?
A: Sporting rights may be detached from the land to which they apply, and traded separately from the freehold of the land. Naturally detaching the sporting rights in this way devalues the freehold. You have not explained the circumstances in which the sporting rights are being offered to you, but were you to buy them, you would have the right in perpetuity to access the land and shoot over it. Bear in mind, though, that the condition of the land could potentially change in future to your detriment. For example, it could be sold for housing or industrial development. You coud still have the sporting rights but they might effectively be worthless.
You should consider how long the land can be expected to be managed in the way it is currently. If it is not the present landowner who is offering you the rights, try to discuss the matter with him. If the years of shooting that you can expect to enjoy are worth the capital outlay, the purchase is worthy of consideration. But remember, caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.
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Should we release information about gun ownership on our shoot?
We have a DIY shoot on private land covering two supportive farms. The shooting rights are owned by another person and he has asked that we provide a risk assessment and the contact details of shoot members. We do not employ anyone and are worried about releasing information about gun ownership albeit to a respected person. Are we legally bound to provide this information?
The landowner or the owner of the sporting rights (if different) may impose any terms he likes in letting the shoot to you, including the requirements you mention. If you don’t like the terms you do not have to take the lease. The question of whether by law it is necessary for you to have a written health and safety policy is an entirely different one. The Health & Safety at Work Act makes a written policy compulsory for many shoots and even for those employing a few beaters.
The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation can offer advice on shoot risk assessments.
I advise you to approach the subject in a receptive frame of mind and pick out parts that apply to you and your shoot. You should then produce the written documentation that is necessary to comply with the law.