Interference with sporting rights
Notwithstanding the fact that the claimant in the 2019 case of Clochfaen Estate Limited v Bryn Blaen Wind Farm Ltd had not exercised them for 60 years, they were not deterred from applying to the court claiming that there had been an interference with their sporting rights, caused by the recent construction of a wind farm.
In 2016, planning permission was obtained to develop a wind farm to the north of the land and to use the land in question for a temporary compound for access and associated works. The land in question was used for this purpose between May 2017 and April 2018, after which it was restored to agricultural use. The claimant argued that the in part temporary and in part permanent development of the land in question constituted an interference with its shooting rights over it and sought a declaration, injunction and damages from the wind farm owners.
The High Court held that it was not necessary to show actual loss to succeed with a trespass claim and that here, there had indeed been substantial interference to the claimant’s rights. That said, the land had been restored and the interference had only been temporary. Further, given the claimant had not in any event been using the rights (unsurprising, given that the land was hedged about with houses, roads and infrastructure) the damages were limited to nominal damages of £100.
The point remains, that the results might have been very different on other facts – had the sporting rights been valuable and well-used, for example – also, that when granting sporting rights to third parties, the knock-on effect of that grant on neighbouring land and whether this will restrict future development should be remembered.