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Over the past few months we have received several enquiries regarding sporting rights. What is or is not included and who owns the rights? It is fair to say that no two cases are precisely the same and in some instances the person who owns the land may not even hold the sporting rights.
Sporting rights normally cover the taking of wild animals by either shooting, fishing or hunting (using hounds).
So, who owns the sporting rights? To confirm the answer to this question, one will need to have sight of the title deeds to the property to confirm if there are covenants, restrictions or a separation out of ‘Sporting Rights’. Some land may be sold or transferred with all the sporting rights, some with partial rights (for example the new owner may only get the rights to kill pests while the original owner retains the game shooting rights) and in other cases the land can be sold or transferred with no rights going to the new owner.
For example, in the 1960’s the water level of Lough Neagh was lowered which in turn exposed new land that had previously been under water. Farmers and landowners around the perimeter of the Lough were able to purchase this land from the Shaftsbury Estate, the owner of Lough Neagh however, in many cases the sporting rights remained under the control of the Shaftsbury Estate. This would mean anyone wanting to take game on this land would need permission from the ‘Rights Holder’ and the landowner depending on what was agreed at the time of purchase, and what is included within the title deed before they can access and take game from these lands.
For anyone wishing to acquire sporting rights, it is wise to consider what exactly you want, the type of quarry you wish to take, the right of access you will need, and what other requirements you will need to enable the pursuit of your sport. For example, do you wish to have the right to erect pens or release birds and if so, how many? It is wise to consider what obligations you or your group are prepared to agree to undertake in relation to maintenance of, or improvements to, the land, and of course indemnity of the land owner in respect of claims. It is also important to establish if anyone else has any rights to the land.
As you can see from this short summary, rights are a very complex subject and can lead to a lot of confusion, especially were land has been sold or passed on a number of times, or where more than one party has rights to the land. Someone may have the rights to take deer while another only to take pheasants. We would therefore recommend that any agreements with landowners, and where applicable with other rights holders, are confirmed in writing, detailing precisely what has been agreed and accompanied by the appropriate maps defining the area in question. Legal advice in drafting such agreements is advisable particularly where it is intended to be a longer-term agreement which you may wish to have registered with Land Registry as a burden on the Title Deed.