As landowners and tenants across Scotland continue to look for ways in which to diversify their land, a fast-growing sector has emerged in the form of “Agri-Tourism” – where visitors to a farm get to experience of rural life and work. This growth has led to an increase in the number of landowners seeking advice on how best to protect themselves and their business from unforeseen legal difficulties.
Liability and Health and Safety
Many Agri-Tourism businesses include interactive experiences involving livestock, which presents its own set of risks to manage. The keeper of an animal in Scotland is under strict liability for the actions of their animals, meaning that they can be held liable for any harm caused with the prospect of having to pay compensation without there being any fault on the keeper’s part. As a result, adequate protocols should be put in place and regularly reviewed by any business owner. Of course, a paper trail in the form of adequate risk assessments is important in demonstrating that risks have been properly considered and, where appropriate, steps have been taken to mitigate these risks.
Access and Nuisance
A further consideration is the location of the business premises. Whilst there may be no issues when located next to a public road, if access is taken over a private track on someone else’s land – especially if use is shared with others – it is worth checking the extent of the right to use the private road. It may be subject to conditions of use e.g. for agricultural purposes only which would not permit use for a commercial enterprise. In addition, care should be take in respect of how the business affects any neighbours’ enjoyment of their property, which may be prohibited under the title deeds. Jeremy Clarkson’s farm shop faced criticism recently for long queues and large numbers of visitors, which angered the local community and potentially upset his plans for expansion. If in doubt, business owners should have their title deeds reviewed to ensure that access is possible, and the business will be allowed on their property.
Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, there are a variety of opportunities to get involved in Agri-Tourism and to diversify your land but seek legal advice before doing so.
As featured in Farming Leader January 2022 edition