A recent case highlights the importance of the careful drafting of option agreements, to ensure the intention of the parties is quite clear, and not open to “cheeky” interpretation by one of them!

In Fishbourne Developments Ltd v Stephens1, Fishbourne obtained a planning permission to replace the roof on one of the agricultural buildings on the farm in question. On the face of it, due to the poor drafting of the option agreement, this constituted “development” and the developer sought to exercise the option over the whole farm at well below the market price. The landowner took the dispute on and won. The court held that “development” meant development including new buildings involving a change of use from agricultural use, and “development of the property” meant of the whole or substantially the whole of the farm. The planning permission obtained by the developer for the new roof was clearly not a “planning permission” for the purposes of the option agreement.

Drafting is key but it is quite common to come across poorly drafted and thought through documents, says Rural and Agricultural Land Partner, Catherine Abbott. Be sure to seek out the expertise you need at an early stage of any negotiations, this can save a lot of pain in the end.

More information on our Rural and Agricultural team can be found here.

  1. Fishbourne Developments Ltd v Stephens [2020] EWHC 932 (Ch) (21 April 2020)

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