Commission backs conservation covenants to protect wildlife and heritage
Existing methods 'complex and costly' and lead to 'piecemeal approach'
The Law Commission has called for the introduction of conservation covenants into English law to help protect wildlife and historic buildings.
The commission said, in a consultation launched today, that covenants were already used in various other jurisdictions, including in Scotland, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Without them, the commission argued, England and Wales would be left with a number of "complex and costly" legal methods to protect land, which were "not only inefficient, but have led to a piecemeal approach" to private conservation of land.
"Conservation covenants would allow us to safeguard our natural environment and heritage for future generations," law commissioner professor Elizabeth Cooke (pictured) said.
"Such agreements have been used successfully in other places in the world for some time. In England and Wales, landowners who want to use their land to support conservation must currently rely on expensive and insecure workarounds. "There is a clear gap in the law and the commission is asking, is it time for that gap to be filled?"
The commission said the introduction of conservation covenants would "allow landowners voluntarily to create binding obligations on their own land to meet a conservation objective, such as preserving woodland, cultivating a particular species of plant or animal, or farming land in a certain way."
Unlike restrictive covenants, they could be created over both leasehold and freehold land, did not need to be created for the benefit of neighbouring land and could be positive as well as negative.
There were already statutory exceptions to the restrictive covenants regime, the commission argued, for example allowing the National Trust to create covenants without owning neighbouring land.
The commission said only 'responsible bodies' such as charities and registered charities should be able to make conservation covenants, which would be statutory obligations rather than traditional property rights.
It added that landowners and responsible bodies should be able to agree between themselves when a covenant should be amended.Tags: