16 May 2023

The Environment Act 2021 sets out statutory framework for the recovery of the environment for generations to come which will require long-term investment and stability.

The Act introduced a Conservation Covenant Agreement which is an agreement between a landowner and a responsible body (such as a local authority or charity), where the agreement contains provision which has a conservation purpose and is intended by the parties to be for the public good which appears from the agreement that the parties intend to create a conservation covenant. Public good means that the conservation covenant must benefit the public in some way. For example, you could conserve land as a place of archaeological, architectural, artistic, cultural or historic interest that the public can enjoy.

A Conservation Covenant Agreement can be used to secure income and funding for conservation activities as well as ensuring that conservation commitments on the land are passed to successors in title.

What is a conservation covenant?

The purpose of a conservation covenant is to conserve the natural environment of land or the natural resources of land, archaeological, architectural, artistic, cultural or historic interest.

Unlike positive covenants, which do not generally bind successors in title, and restrictive covenants which require benefitting land, a conservation covenant is a private or voluntary agreement between a landowner and a responsible body to do something on a landowners land which benefits conservation. Conservation covenants are capable of being registered as a local land charge that makes them binding on successors in title.

What does this mean for landowners?

Landowners should be aware that unless an end date is set out in the agreement, the conservation covenant will last for an indefinite duration. If the parties set an end date, there may be other requirements which may need to be meet. Conservation covenants may be modified or discharged by agreement between the parties. If an agreement cannot be reached between the landowner and responsible body they can take the case to the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal.

Before a landowner enters into a Conservation Covenant Agreement they must seek professional advice to avoid any long term implications to the landowner given the longevity of conservation covenants and the potential difficulty to modify or discharge the covenant.

If you are considering entering into a Conservation Covenant Agreement and would like to discuss matters further, please contact Battens Solicitors Agriculture & Rural Property team.