A national firm representing some of the UK’s biggest landowners has warned that abolishing manorial rights could breach its clients’ human rights.
Bond Dickinson told the House of Commons Justice Select Committee that any plan to scrap landowners’ manorial rights would make it ‘highly likely’ that legal challenges would be mounted.
The firm, which represents many owners of manorial rights, including landed estates, national and regional charities and private individuals, said abolition would amount to ‘deprivation’ under human rights legislation.
In a written submission to the committee, the firm said: ‘Compensation would therefore have to be paid to manorial lords, and we would submit that this would not be a worthy use of public money or parliamentary time.
‘Rights would have to be proven, including those already noted on registered titles, and valued. Some rights may have significant values, such as sporting rights and minerals rights.’
Following changes introduced by the Land Registration Act 2002, manorial rights lost their overriding status in relation to properties if they were not protected by being registered before 13 October 2013.
This has led to large numbers of applications to enter a notice claiming manorial rights on properties in England and Wales being made to Land Registry in recent years. As a consequence, the committee said it has recently received a number of representations calling for the abolition of manorial rights.
Bond Dickinson’s response was on its own behalf and on behalf of the Lonsdale Settled Estate, the Moorland Association, the Marquess of Salisbury’s Estates, the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne’s Estates and the Chatsworth Settlement Trust.
The firm said it has registered around 8,000 unilateral notices to protect clients’ manorial interests since 2008.
In its response, the firm said there has been no evidence that notices are putting off buyers and preventing remortgages: on the occasions where solicitors handling purchases have contacted Bond Dickinson, the transaction has completed successfully.
The firm said that arguing that property rights should be lost because they are historic was ‘fallacious’, while claims that landowners might carry out mining or ‘fracking’ beneath people’s homes were not true.
The justice committee has said it is likely to take oral evidence on manorial rights in October.
One group invited to speak is Peasants’ Revolt, which represents around 500 households in Welwyn Garden City who have been informed that the Marquess of Salisbury (pictured) has registered his manorial rights.
In its submission, the group said manorial rights were ‘a relic of the feudal system and have no place in a property-owning democracy’.
The response added: ‘The biggest issue for affected homeowners in our local community is that we bought our properties in good faith, having conducted the appropriate due diligence, including the relevant searches. We have now been told after (in some cases, long after) purchase that a third party has superior interests over our properties.
‘We couldn’t possibly have known about these interests beforehand, so in effect we have been mis-sold our properties.’