Bath Rugby will this month be continuing to push forward their argument (neatly paraphrased by a George Bernard Shaw quote) that “progress is impossible without change’. Way back in 2006 the Rugby Football Union (RFU) ruled that all premiership rugby clubs would need a spectator capacity of at least 15,000. Unfortunately for Bath, their famous home – the Recreation Ground – failed to meet this new demand. From then on, a legal conundrum has engulfed the club and its surrounding area. Over a decade on, a resolution has yet to be found. To say that public opinion on the issue is polarized would be somewhat of an understatement.
The current battleground regarding the proposed development of ‘the Rec’ is an interesting one. It concerns an area of land and property law that we at Lawdit deal with regularly, and have a vast array of experience in, Restrictive covenants.
So, what are restrictive covenants? A covenant is a promise made by one landowner to another regarding the use of land. Covenants can be either positive (e.g. requiring the covenantor to do something – upkeep of a wall etc.) or, in the Bath Rugby’s case, a covenant of a negative nature. This type of covenant concerns a certain restriction on the use of the land in question. It’s worth mentioning here that whilst they are coined ‘negative’ covenants, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the covenant has a negative impact on the land. It is purely a restriction put in place on what the landowner and/or tenant can do with the land.
For Bath, the ‘Save our Recreation Ground’ lobbying group believe that ‘the Bath Recreation Ground is charitable land for the use of everyone for sport and recreation. It should not be taken over for private gain’. The legal team acting on behalf of Bath Rugby now seek a judgement on whether these restrictive covenants on the land (from 1922) are enforceable. If the court does not rule in Bath Rugby’s favour, the plans for re-development of the Rec will once again be cast in to doubt.
Bath Rugby’s position is by no means unique. Many people and businesses alike have issues regarding restrictive covenants and land. If you’re in need of advice surrounding this area of the law, please feel free to give the team a call on 023 8023 5979.