A Midland lawyer has urged the UK’s renewable developers to ‘tick every box’ when it comes to the legal documents surrounding their schemes and partnerships with landowners.
The timely warning comes from renewable legal specialist Elayna Smith as figures reveal the number of wind farms and hydro schemes across the UK are at their highest ever.
Recent statistics have shown that wind power across the world has expanded by almost 20 per cent last year with the UK now ranking as number six globally for installed wind power – with a total of 8.5GW.
Meanwhile hydro power, with its low environmental impact, continues to grow in popularity with the UK generating around 1.5 per cent of its electricity from large and small-scale hydroelectric schemes.
Ms Smith, an assistant solicitor with law firm MFG Solicitors, has welcomed both upwards trends but has moved to caution developers and landowners that the legal landscape cannot be overlooked.
She said: “The amount of wind and hydro schemes across the UK has grown incredibly in recent years and the environmental impact continues to be well documented. More and more specialist firms, landowners and farmers are now involved in potential schemes – whether it’s selling or purchasing parcels of land.
“However, these land transactions can be tricky and there are many considerations surrounding each case. Over recent months there have been cases where documents such as sales particulars, lease agreements or title deeds for land have been overlooked – or even worse, landowners finding they don’t have the necessary rights to enter into a renewable scheme.
“These are basic oversights which have resulted in complications with sales or purchases which is not only delaying schemes, but resulting in lost revenue and unnecessary costs for those involved.
“It’s a situation we are trying to halt and having been heavily involved with a number of schemes across England and Wales last year, we’re making sure people tick all the right legal boxes – vital areas such as land sales, title investigations, leasing and importantly, the crucial planning process which can involve numerous stakeholders.”
Ms Smith said that too few landowners are taking legal advice and is concerned the legalities surrounding land ownership rights for multi-acre wind and hydro schemes aren’t being clearly established.
She added that developers and landowners who enter into joint agreements are making too many ‘verbal promises’ – putting schemes at risk.
She continued: “The renewable sector is an industry, which we believe more than ever, needs first class legal support and advice because as the recent figures suggest, the upwards trend will only be moving in one direction – especially with many farmers receiving all or some of their electricity for free as part of deals to allow schemes onto their land.”
“The successful schemes we’ve advised on in recent months have been helped by excellent stakeholder engagement with formal, watertight agreements between all parties.
“It’s amazing how many verbal promises are still being made. But I think people are starting to learn there’s too much at stake to place on nothing more than a handshake and the need to deal with matters professionally and effectively.
“The legal side of establishing a wind or hydro scheme is complex and time consuming. Developers and landowners should not be put off by that – it’s all about taking open and honest advice from experts to protect themselves, their investment and their ambitious plans.”
One firm MFG Solicitors has been advising in recent months is North Wales Hydro Power – one of north Wales’ most respected hydroelectric developers who focus primarily within the Snowdonia National Park. The business, formed just over two years ago, is working on over 40 hydro schemes.