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Agricultural Land Tribunals (ALTs)
(serviced by Defra)

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Introduction

Before reading the information on this page, please note that it is intended to provide only a very brief overview. It is not in any way a substitute for the legislation governing applications to Agricultural Land Tribunals, or for professional advice given in the light of personal circumstances. It is essential for anyone applying to the Agricultural Land Tribunal or involved in Agricultural Land Tribunal proceedings to familiarise themselves with the relevant legislation, or to seek professional advice.

In England and Wales around 33 per cent of agricultural land is rented. The relationships between landlords and tenants of agricultural holdings are governed partly by the terms of their individual tenancy agreements and partly by the agricultural tenancy legislation. There are two main pieces of legislation dealing with agricultural tenancies: the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 and the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995.

The Agricultural Land Tribunals (ALTs) play an important role in settling disputes and other issues between agricultural tenants and landlords arising from tenancy agreements held under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986. There is no recourse to the ALTs under the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995.

Instead, under this legislation, general disputes are resolved by recourse to arbitration, and subject to the provisions of the Arbitration Act 1950-79. Parties may contract out of the statutory provisions and substitute their own arrangements, but cannot contract to have disputes settled by the ALTs.

The Legislative Background

ALTs were established under Section 73 of the Agriculture Act 1947 to hear appeals against decisions given by the Minister or County Agricultural Executive Committees. The Agriculture Act 1958 made them courts of first instance. The ALTs now consider issues referred to them under various provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, and also under Sections 28 and/or 30 of the Land Drainage Act 1991, in respect of certain drainage disputes between neighbours.

Procedural Rules

Each ALT operates according to the statutory rules. These are currently the:

which came into force on 15 January 2008.

The new ALT 2007 Rules Order apply:

  1. to applications to the Tribunals for a direction entitling the applicant to a tenancy of an agricultural holding on the death or retirement of the tenant when the date of death or the giving of the retirement notice was on or after 15th January 2008;
  2. to applications for the Tribunal’s consent to the operation of notice to quit when the date on which the tenant served a counter-notice in writing requiring that section 26(1) of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 shall apply to the notice to quit was on or after 15th January 2008; and
  3. to all other applications on issues within the jurisdiction of the Tribunals made on or after 15 January 2008.

Otherwise the 1978 and 1984 Rules Orders, i.e:

  • Agricultural Land Tribunal (Rules) Order 1978 SI 1978/259
  • Agricultural Land Tribunals (Succession to Agricultural Tenancies) Order 1984 SI 1984/1301

continue to apply as if they had not been revoked.

Visit the National Archives website to read these previous ALT orders:

New Forms of Application and Reply

New forms of application and reply for use where the 2007 procedural rules apply have been prepared and are available from Tribunal offices. In cases where the 1978 and 1984 ALT Rules Orders continue to apply, the forms appended to those rules should continue to be used and can be obtained from the same offices.

What issues are dealt with by the ALTs?

The main issues dealt with by ALTs are:

  • applications by close relatives of a deceased or retiring tenant to succeed to the tenancy;
  • applications by landlords for consent to a notice to quit served on the tenant;
  • applications for a direction to tend ditches or carry out drainage work on neighbouring land;
  • applications by landlords for a certificate of bad husbandry on the ground that the tenant is not farming in accordance with the rules of good husbandry;
  • applications by tenants for approval to carry out long-term improvements on the holding;
  • applications for a direction to provide fixed equipment.

Constitution of the ALTs

There are eight ALTs, seven for England and one for Wales. Each of the ALTs covers a specific geographic area as laid down in the Agricultural Land Tribunals (Area) Order 1982 (SI 1982/97.)

Each ALT:

  • is an independent statutory body with jurisdiction only within its own geographical area;
  • is constituted afresh for hearing each case;
  • consists of a Chairman and two lay members nominated by the Chairman;

The Chairman also has the discretion, rarely exercised, to nominate two Assessors from a panel of professional experts nominated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Appointments to the ALTs

As for many other Tribunals, the Lord Chancellor is responsible for the appointment and re-appointment of Chairmen, Deputy Chairmen and lay members of the ALTs. For each ALT area, the Lord Chancellor appoints:

  • a Chairman;
  • Deputy Chairman (as required), and
  • the members of the statutory lay panels.

Statutory functions of the ALTs

The statutory functions of the Tribunal are as follows:

The Hill Farming Act 1946
Section 21 (as amended by Section 8 of the Agricultural Act 1958). Application by tenant for direction to avoid or relax a covenant etc against the burning of heather or grass.
Agriculture Act 1947
Section 89 This section, relating to the sub-division of agricultural units, has never been brought into operation but it does provide for reference to the Agricultural Land Tribunals.
Land Drainage Act 1991
Sections 28 and 30

Applications for directions in regard to the tending of ditches or the carrying out of drainage work on neighbouring land and also related matters.
The Land Drainage Act 1991(OPSI website)

Defra: Land Drainage Act 1991 Part II: Restoration or Improvement of Ditches – Notes for Guidance (PDF, 30 KB)

The Agricultural Holdings Act 1986
Section 11 Application for direction for the provision, alteration or repair of fixed equipment.
Section 26(1) Application for consent to operation of notice to quit.
Section 26(3) and Schedule 3 Part II and Para 9 Application for certificate of bad husbandry
Section 27(5) Application for variation or revocation of conditions previously imposed on consents by the Tribunal.
Section 39 Application by a close relative (or relatives) of a deceased tenant for a direction entitling him to a tenancy of the holding.
Section 41 Application by a not fully eligible close relative for a determination that he be treated as eligible for the purpose of Sections 36 to 48.
Section 44 Application by a landlord for the consent to the operation of a notice to quit.
Section 53 Application by person nominated by retiring tenant for a direction entitling him to a tenancy.
Section 67(3) Application for approval to carry out certain long term improvements; and application for decision that landlord has failed to carry out improvements within a reasonable time.
Section 80(1) Application for direction that an agricultural holding shall be treated as a market garden.
The Agricultural Holdings (Arbitration on Notices) Order 1987
Article 13 Application by tenant for postponement of operation of notice to quit.

Costs

There is currently no requirement for payment of a fee on making an application to the ALT. Defra meets the costs of the ALT itself, including the cost of the hearing. Applicants and other affected parties must meet their own costs incurred in making an application, e.g. travelling costs to attend a hearing or site inspection, the cost of professional advice/representation.

Where the ALT considers that any party to the proceedings has acted frivolously, vexatiously or oppressively, the ALT has the power to order that person to pay to any other person a specified sum incurred by him or the taxed amount of those costs (i.e. where parties cannot agree on such costs, the County Court will decide). Under section 27(7) of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, the Tribunal may, in proceedings under that section, by order provide for the payment by any party of such sum as the Tribunal consider a reasonable contribution towards costs.

Complaints

The Tribunals are committed to providing a high quality and efficient service to its users. If you are dissatisfied with the service you have received from any part of the Tribunal, you can complain by following the procedures set out in the Tribunals' Protocol for Complaints Relating to Agricultural Land Tribunals (England and Wales) (March 2008, PDF, 151 KB).

Further information and application forms

For further information about the procedures of the ALTs and application forms, please contact the relevant Tribunal secretary.

Page last modified: 17 January 2010
Page published: 26 November 2003