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Breaking new ground

Breaking new ground

In 'breaking new ground' commercial property lawyer Sarah Loan discusses the ownership of the mines and minerals which may lie below the surface of a new Academy.

Are you are a new Academy who have recently taken a standard academy lease granted by the local authority?  Or you may be an education body with other property interests?  As part of your strategy to improve teaching and learning, you might be hoping to develop your existing buildings. Before doing so, talk to us about the issues which might arise from the ownership of the mines and minerals below the surface.

Building for the future

In discussions about your new Academy lease, you may have been have advised that you, or your landlord, do not own the title to the mines and minerals beneath the surface. You may have also been advised that any building work that disturbs these mines and minerals may lead to third party claims.

Third parties may register notices about their rights to excavate below-surface mines and minerals, or may register ownership of mines and mines and minerals at the Land Registry. Once land has been re-developed or when redevelopment is planned, some mineral rights owners have been attempting to obtain “compensation” for disturbance of the mines and minerals caused by digging foundations and/or underground easements.

Determining the extent and validity of such claims is complex and the amount of compensation, if any, has not yet been clearly tested in the Courts.  In our experience most claims are being privately settled so values are difficult to determine.  

The good news is that we would hope that school re-development would not be a focus. Claims are often directed at large development projects (particularly where plots are sold on and the developer wants a “clean” title). Also, insurance may be available for those who wish to build where a risk is identified. Insurance cover will require that you do not contact the party with the mines and minerals interest so it is vital that you do not do this without speaking to your solicitor first.

What you might not know

Where your Land Registry title isn’t subject to a notice or separate registration of mines and minerals in favour of a third party, this may not be the end of the story. There is a presumption that mines and minerals are included in your title but this may be overturned if the Land Registry receives sufficient evidence from a party of mineral rights or ownership. So even if your Land Registry Title is silent on the matter, you may not be safe from a claim.

Make sure you are well informed about the position and speak to a solicitor before considering any building work that might disturb mines and minerals beneath the surface of land.

For further information on mines and minerals, contact Helen Hayward, Sarah Loan or one of our other specialist property solicitors at Burnetts on 01228 552222.

About the author

Sarah Loan profile photo

Sarah Loan

Sarah is a solicitor in Burnetts' Commercial Property team

Published: Monday 21st September 2015
Categorised: Commercial Property, Education

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