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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

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Seek legal advice over mineral rights, Cumbria's landowners told

Landowners in Cumbria have been told to seek legal advice in relation to mineral rights after fresh fears were sparked over fracking.

New concerns were raised about so-called ‘mineral rights’ and their ancient owners using them to allow fracking under people’s homes, in a Westminster debate.

And a map published last week showed the scale of potential fracking sites may be even greater, taking in larger parts of Cumbria than previously identified.

Albert Owen, the MP for Anglesey, spoke out at the debate saying that concerns about the ancient rights have been heightened at a time when the country is talking about fracking – causing many concerned people to link the two together.

Homeowners around Carlisle, the Eden Valley and the Harrington area have received letters from aristocrats, including the Duke of Devonshire, and the Church of England, laying claim to the ancient rights under their land.

Diane Barnes, a solicitor at Burnetts, offered some advice for homeowners receiving letters.

She said people needed to get any notices “checked out”.

“There are still a lot of letters being received by landowners because the Land Registry have a backlog,” she said. “My advice would be get it checked out that they have a valid reason to be claiming.

“The registration isn’t changing anything, they [ancient landowners] just have to get them registered, it is nothing new. Take legal advice from your solicitor to get an independent view.”

Last November, Lord Egremont submitted applications to retain existing rights which he says he has over land within the Leconfield estate.

Home owners and landowners in the Great Broughton, Little Broughton, Aspatria, Dean, Eaglesfield, Caldbeck, Birkby and Boltongate areas all received the notices.

Other MPs also weighed into the debate saying that their constituents had been “distressed” by receiving a claim. Mineral rights are ancient rights to mines and minerals, plus sporting and market rights on a piece of land. They allow the owners to exploit the earth under the property on their estate.

Much of the land affected may once have been owned by the person or group confirming its rights – in some cases centuries ago – but, unknown to most, maintained their claim to minerals.

In England and Wales more than 73,000 claims to manorial rights have been received by the Land Registry.

Richard Miller, head of agriculture and energy at Burnetts, received around 50 calls from people when the letters were first issued.

“The standard advice has been not to fight this all the way,” he said. “Instruct your solicitor but there isn’t going to be anyone coming and digging up your garden.

“However, if you do nothing about it, someone may get the registration against your property and if you have done some development with foundations you could face some ramifications – but that would be a minority.”


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