A High Court ruling principally about the interpretation of contracts also serves as a stark warning for developers and a reminder of the importance of considering mines and minerals when looking to purchase or promote land for development.
The case between an aggregates company and a developer turned on the language used in two transfers of the land dated 1988 and 1989, and whether the clauses in them relating to the mines and minerals constituted exceptions or reservations. A particularly concerning element of the decision is the judge's comment that land registry title registers are not conclusive on the matter and it was therefore still necessary to look to the transfers themselves, although it is worth noting that in the circumstances the register stated that mines and minerals were excepted.
On the facts, the judge found that the provisions in question amounted to exceptions and therefore the aggregates company owned the mines and minerals. Therefore, the development which had been started constituted a trespass.
This decision emphasises the importance of clear drafting, and of all parties being clear on precisely what a transfer is seeking to achieve, and the need to always conduct a full and thorough title investigation.
"there was clear business logic in excepting mines and minerals, without a power of working. The exception could operate as a subterranean ransom strip and give the transferor leverage in negotiating a share in any future profit arising on the development of the Property."