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Legal update: advice for landowners on solar farming schemes

The UK solar and battery energy storage market continues to develop apace, with over four hundred solar schemes in operation around the country. With such schemes playing an increasingly important role in powering the UK, Stephen Unwin, real estate partner and joint head of Andrew Jackson’s energy team, says it’s important that landowners seek advice to ensure their interests are fully protected.

Developers continue to approach landowners for consent to place solar panels and battery energy storage systems on their holdings and any scheme – large or small – which a developer proposes needs to be handled carefully by the landowner. It is important to seek advice from a land agent on the commercial terms and independent advice on the legal implications and the documents.

Developers normally insist on using their own documentation which will be drafted with their interests paramount. It will generally be presented as “standard” but in fact will need change to put it into a format which is fair to both parties and properly protects your interests.

Your main driver will be financial – the developer will be the principal investor, incurring the expense of relevant surveys and investigations, planning applications and construction. However, you will be providing the site and the land for the relevant infrastructure. You need to ensure that you get a decent return from granting the rights to the developer – there are numerous rent and profit share alternatives to be considered – and that you are comfortable with the effect of the scheme, the rights granted and the restrictions which the developer requires you to accept.

Participating in a scheme means that you are not only giving up land for the equipment but will also be making available land for access and necessary infrastructure, such as cabling requirements. You may also be impacting on future flexibility for farming operations and development potential, to the extent that the developer may require that you accept restrictions on farming and forestry activities, or development and change of use, which it considers could impact adversely on its operations over the long term.

This means that the provisions of any exclusivity agreement, option or lease need to be carefully considered by you with your professional advisers. Hidden in the detail there may be rights or restrictions proposed to be given or accepted which you need to qualify or which may not be acceptable at the outset.

Your land agent and lawyer can guide you through the process and, in liaison with you, review the documentation and propose any necessary or preferred modifications to the developer.

Any reasonable developer will be prepared to discuss and negotiate on issues of concern – you need to end up in a position where any document you are asked to sign is in a form and contains provisions with which you are fully familiar, is not unreasonably restrictive or onerous and does not unfairly prejudice you and your family’s interests in your landholding.

For help and advice on these and other related issues, please contact Stephen Unwin on (01482) 325242 or email stephen.unwin@andrewjackson.co.uk

 

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