A combine harvests a cereal crop

Field Talk – Winter 2014

Welcome to the Winter edition of our Agricultural Law Briefing

Well so far water seems to be the main issue dominating 2014. Certainly, as I write, large tracts of the West Country are languishing under metres of inland lake, the coast is suffering the dual onslaught of high tides and swollen rivers and farm businesses are stretched beyond capacity, coping with water damage to property and crops, loss of trade, absent employees and the list goes on.

With no let-up in the line of Atlantic storms queuing up to the west, the once in a life-time flood events look like becoming rather too familiar for comfort. Farmers are legitimately asking what the Environment Agency (EA) is doing to address the situation. The answer is changing by the day, depending on how significant the problem is perceived to be by those in Westminster.

Landowners may, with justification, consider the EA to have been woefully negligent in failing to dredge watercourses, however calling them to account, in legal terms, is problematic: the EA has myriad powers but frustratingly few duties. There would be little chance of a successful claim in negligence.

Ironically, however, the much hated Human Rights Act may, in fact, turn out to be the saviour of flood weary rural communities, struggling to force the EA to undertake routine water management duties. An action under Article 1 of the 1st protocol (the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions) or Article 2 (respect for private and family life) might well provide a real opportunity for balancing the power equation and persuading the EA to protect our rural communities.

Field Talk – Winter 2014


  • Employee Absence: Blame it on the weatherman
  • Chancel Repair Liability: Still paying for Henry’s cronies
  • News Round-up: Notes from Esther Woolford
  • Assets of Community Value: How the new regime is developing
  • Farm Business Tenancies: Drafting Notes
  • Equine Seminar: Straight from the horse’s mouth
  • Renewables: A sunny future or a cold wind from the East?