Law Commission recommends introduction of new statutory scheme of conservation covenants

Following the Law Commission’s consultation on the introduction of conservation covenants from March to June 2013, the Conservation Covenant’s report has been published today with the results of the consultation and a draft bill to give effect to the recommendation to introduce a statutory scheme of conservation covenants allowing landowners to voluntarily create binding obligations on their own land to meet a conservation objective, such as preserving woodland, plant species or habitats or covenants binding land to farm in a particular way.

The report and draft bill aim to introduce a simple and cost-effective means of:

  • overcoming the legal difficulties faced when creating binding obligations;
  • enhancing the delivery of existing conservation objectives; and
  • insuring long-term conservation benefits.

The report recommends the statutory introduction of conservation covenants into the law of England and Wales by providing for:

  • voluntary agreements to be made between a landowner and a responsible body for a conservation purpose and for the public good
  • no requirement for there to be benefitted land
  • the ability to agree positive as well as negative obligations
  • provision for those obligations to bind successors in title; and
  • conservation covenants to be a statutory burden on land, rather than either contractual rights or conventional property rights within section 1 of the Law of Property Act 1925.

Non-statutory guidance should be developed through consultation by the Secretary of State, or the Welsh Ministers as appropriate.

The bill at a glance:

  • Clauses 1 to 3- creation of a conservation covenant- set out conditions that an agreement must satisfy if it is to be a conservation covenant, who can enter into such an agreement “responsible bodies” in relation to land in England or Wales.
  • Clauses 4 to 8- the legal effects of a conservation covenant-  set out the statutory obligation and its duration, status as a local land charge, who is bound by and who can enforce a conservation covenant.
  • Clauses 9 to 12 -breach and enforcement of a conservation covenant- explains what constitutes breach of a conservation covenant, remedies for breach, defenses and the limitation period.
  • Clauses 13 to 16- discharge, release and modification-by agreement or by means of an application to the Upper Tribunal of the Lands Chamber.
  • Clauses 17 to 19 – transfer by responsible body to another – sets out provisions for the transfer of the benefit of conservation covenant and the termination of status as a responsible body
  • Clauses 20 to 28 – miscellaneous - application of the Bill to the Crown (to which Schedule 2 relates) and consequential amendments (to which Schedule 3 relates)

For further details see:

This article was written by Melissa Moore, solicitor in the Lexis®PSL Property team.

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