19 May 1995

British Coal shows deadline flexibility

By Peter Bullen

BRITISH Coal has promised the government it will show some flexibility over the deadlines it has set tenants who want to buy their farms.

Originally tenant farmers wanting to purchase their land were given only four weeks in which to make up their minds. But in a letter to Sherwood Labour MP Paddy Tipping junior trade minister Richard Page has indicated the timetable may not now be quite so strict.

The four-week period was intended to enable tenants to draw the attention of British Coals valuers to any material issues which may not have been reflected fairly in the valuation for the offer price and to agree the price in principle, the minister wrote.

Any legal issues would be dealt with in the detailed contract negotiations after agreement on price. "Any material issues which arise during the legal process can be dealt with at that time and, if they were to have an impact on value, an opportunity will be given to adjust the purchase price," he added.

"In addition, British Coal has advised me that they are prepared to be flexible if there are genuine difficulties, provided there is real intention to purchase," explained Mr Page.

The Country Landowners Association, which has been fighting for an easing in British Coals strict conditions, welcomed the ministers letter.

"It makes it clear that there is scope for the individual issues affecting tenants to be discussed on a sensible basis with British Coal, although the pressure on British Coal will mean that any interest must be pursued promptly," said CLA rural practice surveyor Andrew Pym.

Another concession

Mr Pym also welcomed another concession by British Coal that in certain cases it is willing to negotiate with former owners under the "Crichel Down Rules".

These ensure former owners, or their successors, whose land was bought under threat of compulsory powers have it offered back to them to buy before it goes on to the open market.