Several of the Land and Rural Business Team attended Agriscot at Ingliston on 16 November, and we were delighted to be involved as one of the sponsors of the seminar programme. Head of Rural Clive Philips chaired a seminar, "Land Registration - looking after your land and promoting development", which included some excellent presentations by Scott Bond of Registers of Scotland, Michael Fletcher and Michael Izzi of Gladman and our own Charles Hay.

The attendees gained an insight into the interaction between the land promotion process and land registration, and learned how early engagement with the title position is of paramount importance to the land promoter. As the demand for new housing increases across the UK more landowners are giving thought to development potential of their rural landholdings. The following key messages came through in the seminar presentations:

  1. Check your title deeds to establish extent of ownership. It is not uncommon for title plans to exclude areas that are farmed or otherwise occupied. This land might be a key part of the proposed development site, and lack of valid title could stymie development. Land promoters or developers will often be prepared to obtain title indemnity insurance to address lack of title, but the situation will always be improved by them knowing about the issue at an early stage.
  2. Consider voluntary land registration. Land promoters (or developers entering into an option) will invariably require a standard security over the promotion/option site, which will trigger registration of land that is not already registered. However, if there is an opportunity for a landowner to register its land before that stage, then a "clean" registered title can sometimes make the site more attractive to potential developers. It should certainly simplify the negotiation process, and the title due diligence. This does however need to be weighed against the costs of the registration process, costs that will usually be met by a promoter or developer if the land is registered in the context of a standard security in their favour.
  3. Take professional advice before attempting to resolve title deficiencies. Often it will be possible to identify who is in a position to grant the necessary disposition or servitude rights to rectify the perceived problem, and there can be a temptation to approach that person. If they subsequently refuse to co-operate or only to do so at an unacceptable price then they will have been alerted to the difficulty and title indemnity insurance will no longer be an option. It is often the best option to allow the promoter or developer to determine how to proceed, but at the very least you should discuss strategies and options with your solicitor before making any approach.

Please get in touch with your usual Brodies contact if you would like further information on the issues discussed at AgriScot.