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What are conservation covenants?

Background

On 9th November 2021, the Environmental Act 2021 (EA 2021) received Royal Assent. The Act aims to promote environmental governance in the UK and implements new measures to help with the conservation of land through covenants.

Conservation covenants

A conservation covenant is a private and voluntary agreement between a landowner and a responsible body which aim to protect and preserve land which has and archaeological, cultural, architectural, artistic or historic interest. The covenant will be to several requirements -some of the main requirements include the following:

  1. The agreement must be of a qualifying kind (i.e. have an obligation to do something or an obligation to not do something or allow the responsible body to have an obligation to do something);
  2. it must have a conservation purpose;
  3. the parties must intend for the agreement to serve the public good; and
  4. the agreement must show that the parties intended to create a conservation covenant;

From the 30th of September 2022, landowners will be able to enter into conservation covenant agreement with a ‘responsible body’.

What is a Responsible Body

Under section 119 of the EA 2021, the Secretary of State is considered as a responsible body. The Secretary of State also has the power to designate other entities as responsible bodies. For instance, they can designate local authorities as responsible bodies if they are deemed suitable. Furthermore, they can designate non-local authorities as responsible bodies under certain conditions. Such bodies must have a role which relates to the conservation of such lands described above. Charities and For-profit companies can also become responsible bodies.

From the 30th of September 2022, landowners will be able to enter into conservation covenant agreement with a ‘responsible body’.

How does it bind the land?

Conservation covenants will bind any future owners win the land. For the covenant to take effect, it must be registered as a local land charge by the responsible body before any future owners gain their interest in the land.

A conservation covenant also affects leasehold interests which have a term of 7 years or less. Such leasehold interests will only have a restrictive obligation under the covenant. In other words, the leaseholder will be restricted from using the land in any way which goes against conservation purposes.

Why enter into one?

The introduction of conservation covenants allows landowners to retain ownership of their whilst securing environmental benefits for the long term and conservation for the public good. In practice these types of covenant could be useful for developers looking to gain biodiversity net gain (or a landlord looking to develop their own land). Whether they will be preferred to s.106 agreements remains to be seen.

 

 

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Disclaimer
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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