As more and more farmers host events and festivals on their land to draw in extra income and organisers make plans for 2017 events, Olivia Midgley asks Kiran Notay, an associate at Surrey based law firm Stevens and Bolton to address the potential pitfalls.
1. If a farmer gives the festival organisers permission to use their land, what specific rights should they grant?
A landowner would usually give a festival organiser permission to use land through a licence to occupy.
This permits temporary use of land for a defined period and purpose and on other specific licence terms.
Likely provisions would include use, hours, access, parking, insurance, health and safety and clean-up of the land after the festival ends. It should also detail licence fees payable to the landowner and include provisions on any breach of licence terms.
2. What are the farmer’s legal responsibilities towards visitors? Does the licence make this all the organiser’s responsibility?
Although a landowner permits another party use of its land, this does not necessarily absolve the landowner from responsibility for what happens there during the licence period.
Under occupiers’ liability law, a person who occupies land can be held liable for injury or harm which occurs to another person when on the land.
An occupier is a party who is in control of the land and owes a duty of care towards visitors to ensure they are reasonably safe in using the land for the purpose for which they have permission to be there.
While a landowner may have granted rights to festival organisers to temporarily occupy and ‘control’ the land, the landowner could still be regarded as having a degree of control and a duty of care to ensure visitors are kept safe, and they could be held to account if festival-goers suffer harm or injury.
More than one party may be regarded as the occupier of land and it is possible both the landowner and festival organiser could be liable. For this reason, any licence should be stringent in defining obligations around site responsibility and health and safety aspects.
The licence should ensure festival organisers obtain satisfactory insurance to cover all possible claims and ensure appropriate indemnities are given for any claims brought against the landowner.
3. How would the landowner deal with claims, such as pollution, nuisance or damage? Who does liability lie with?
The landowner could find himself liable for acts of nuisance, regardless of the fact these emanate from the actions of attendees.
They should ensure the licence provides they have recourse against the festival organisers in the event of any claims – and they have adequate funds or insurance to meet claims passed on to them.
4. Could they end up with squatters or suffer long-term damage to land?
To cover this possibility, the licence should provide they may recover costs arising from having to remove third parties from the land or for damage caused.
5. Can neighbours object and stop the festival?
Before entering into agreements with organisers, the landowner should check there are no covenants restricting use of their land which neighbours could potentially enforce by obtaining an injunction to stop the festival.
They could face private nuisance claims if the festival results in damage or loss of enjoyment of neighbouring land.
Neighbours have the right to object and petition the local council to prevent the festival going ahead or to limit its scope. Landowners and festival organisers should encourage open dialogue with the local community and work to minimise the impact of disruption in advance of the event.