Staycation boom legal tips for farmers and land owners
Restrictions on travel abroad has meant an influx of tourists holidaying in the UK, creating many opportunities for the entrepreneurial farmer.
Whilst most visitors to the countryside behave themselves, bringing trade and tourism to rural communities, farmers are increasingly having to deal with anti-social antics.
We’ve all seen viral videos of farmers taking the law into their own hands; forcibly moving trespassing vehicles with telehandlers or covering them with slurry.
Whilst it is understandable that farmers occasionally run out of patience, it is extremely important not to see red.
The first step is, politely, to ask the offending owner to move their vehicle from your land. If they continue to trespass, then reasonable force may be used to eject the vehicle as well as its owner. What is deemed as “reasonable force” is hugely dependent on the circumstances.
Being a civil issue, the police are not able to assist as dealing with trespass requires the involvement of civil courts, opening you up to expensive (and stressful) litigation. Farmers, ironically, could also wind up being prosecuted for any criminal damage caused to the trespassers property whilst moving it.
There are limited options available to deal with illegal parking, but the key thing is to be proactive. Take steps to ensure that there is plenty of signage and obstacles on farm access points.
The influx of tourists inevitably means more dogs that can worry livestock, especially sheep.
Farmers are entitled to compensation from dog owners if a trespassing canine kills or injures livestock but tracking down the perpetrator is difficult and extracting money nigh-on impossible. In certain circumstances farmers are even permitted to shoot a dog. However, it is a common misconception that they have a right to do this. Instead, shooting is a defence which a can be relied upon on if used as an absolute last resort to end the worrying.
No farmer wants to shoot a pet, so it is important to avoid the situation arising at all. Practical preventative steps include the use of signage to encourage walkers to keep to the public rights of way and keep their pets on leads. Look at keeping vulnerable livestock away from areas of the farm with a heavy public footfall and maintain adequate fences on boundaries and footpaths.
The “28 days rule” enables farmers to temporarily alter the designation of their land for up to 28 days per year without the need to obtain planning permission. Common activities that take advantage of this include temporary camp sites, which may prove especially popular if your farm enjoys scenic views or close access to nearby tourist attractions.
There could be opportunities to create a USP by using your property’s sporting and fishing rights to attract niche holiday makers.
Consider whether your farm has old or unproductive farming buildings that could be converted into temporary holiday accommodation. However, check your title deeds beforehand for restrictive covenants which dictate what activities can or can’t be carried out on the property.
Hopefully temperatures will rise over the summer months – but not in the emotional sense. Take the positives from the staycation boom if you can, not the negatives. Whatever you do, don’t take the law into your own hands.