Time For Tea? High Court Examines The Extent Of A Right Of Way Over "agricultural Land"

Publication Date06 September 2020
SubjectLitigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Real Estate and Construction, Trials & Appeals & Compensation, Land Law & Agriculture
Law FirmCharles Russell Speechlys LLP
AuthorMs Emma Preece

In the recent case of Mills v Estate of Partridge and another [2020], the High Court considered whether a plant nursery's diversification of its business to include a tearoom exceeded the scope of the right of way allowing access to the site, and also breached a restrictive covenant registered against the land requiring the land to be used for agricultural purposes only.

The case concerned the rights and obligations over three parcels of land in Kinver, Staffordshire. The Defendants owned land which was originally used as nursery for growing bedding plans from seed, and a nearby field, which was used for growing vegetables. The field was subject to a covenant restricting its use to agricultural land, and access to both the nursery and field was via a track that was owned by the Claimant and over which the Defendant had a right of way "to pass and repass at all times and for all purposes in connection with the use of the land conveyed as agricultural land only...".

Over the 40 years that the Defendant had owned the nursery and field, the business had grown and diversified to include polytunnels, outbuildings, stables, a shop and a tearoom. The shop sold plants, ornaments and other products and the tearoom comprised a purpose built kitchen and was used to host events (as the Defendant had secured an events licence over the premises). The nearby field was used for parking by staff and visitors to the nursery and tearoom.

The Claimant sought a declaration that the Defendant's use of the track to excessive and amounted to a trespass, on the basis the Defendant's use of the nursery and field was not as "agricultural land only". The Defendant denied all allegations and maintained that its use of the field and nursery fell within this scope of the agricultural limitation.

The Court held the following:

  • The Defendant did not have the benefit of a right of way over the track and access to the field for the purpose of parking or to access the nursery to visit the tearoom, or for any other non-agricultural purpose. This use exceeded the scope of the right of way, and the Claimant was entitled to an injunction to prevent use of the track in this way.
  • The use of the field for parking for the sale of non-agricultural stock, such as firewood, was in breach of the restrictive covenant to use the land for agricultural purposes only.

The decision turned on the meaning of use of the land as "agricultural land only". In reaching their decision, the Court made the...

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