The largest and most experienced Agriculture and Rural Estates teams in the country bringing focus to the new opportunities in Natural Capital.
Natural Capital for Land Managers
Key contact

“Ben was a land agent; he knows a lot about the law, and also about the practical and technical side of farming. He can come up with lines of enquiry that are very useful.”

Chambers UK 2024

“Ben Sharples is an outstanding solicitor and tactician with an excellent grasp of the law and of the technical aspects of agriculture and property. The best there is.”

Legal 500 2024

“Clients appreciate his thorough and measured approach.”

Chambers UK 2023

“Ben Sharples is extremely impressive: authoritative, with a very firm handle on the cases he deals with and a very good and clear perspective of what he wants to achieve in getting the best result. He’s also very personable.”

Chambers UK 2022

Natural Capital for Land Managers

Leading the way: unrivaled natural capital expertise

As a Firm, we started our natural capital journey with the largest and most experienced Agriculture and Rural Estates teams in the Country. We now hold an unassailable position as not only the leading National Agriculture and Landed Estates practice, but also the leading natural capital practice.

We advise institutional landowners, estates, and farming businesses on natural capital transactions, and disputes. These include:

  • Payments for ecosystems services
  • Restructuring tenancies to allow for environmental opportunities
  • Joint venture agreements for sustainable farming and environmental benefits.
  • Recovery of vacant possession to enable new environmental opportunities.
  • Afforestation leases and acquisitions.

We start with a true understanding of rural estate management issues and opportunities, through which we advise commercially, and efficiently. No other team in the Country starts with the level of knowledge and experience we have on rural matters, so we’re always ahead of the curve.

Landscape Scale Recovery

Landscape Scale Recovery or “LSR” is DEFRA’s top tier scheme to fund and promote truly joined up landscape scale improvement in the environment. Such momentous change will require collaboration between landowners and tenants landscape-wide, with detailed thought given to tenure, taxation, corporate governance, and commercial aspects. We have all that is required and more to help make these exciting projects a success.

Biodiversity Net Gain

Biodiversity Net Gain or “BNG” has become a key part of efforts to mitigate the environmental impact of development and improve biodiversity through planning value gains. We have been advising upon BNG since it came about in 2021, and now act in a large volume of transactions to secure BNG opportunities.

Nutrient Neutrality

The improvement of water quality in our watercourses has become critical for certain river catchments. This has resulted in planning requirements for the overall reduction in the discharge of nitrogen and phosphorous into rivers. As the treatment of nutrient discharge from new development catches up with demand, developers need to purchase the credits created by land use change to offset increases in discharge caused by new developments.

Case studies

Case studies

Forestry Commission

As part of a comprehensive legal services appointment, we advise the Forestry Commission on the documentation of phosphate and nitrogen mitigation schemes; including the high-profile scheme at the River Stour. This has involved the production of a bespoke suite of agreements that record the sale and purchase of the units arising from the environmental value secured.

As these Nutrient Neutrality (NN) agreements stand for 125 years, issues such as succession planning and long-term management needed to be addressed. We are currently negotiating associated section 106 planning agreements with the Local Authority which will underpin the units sold and safeguard the land use change and environmental outcomes.

North Devon UNESCO Biosphere

We have been acting for a number of large, landed estates and other organisations, such as the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere in relation to DEFRA’s Landscape Scale Recovery scheme. Our advice to date has focused on structuring long-term legally binding agreements between multiple landowners/stakeholders/occupiers, with a particular focus on engaging agricultural tenants (under both Agricultural Holdings Act and Farm Business tenancies). We also advised on how to safeguard investments made in land use change and associated environmental outcomes, including the potential use of conservation covenants. Complex issues of land tenure, carbon ownership and apportionment of risk and reward between the stakeholders need to be addressed, whilst providing clarity on all parties’ roles.

Foundation for Common Land

We also advised the Foundation for Common Land in another Round 1 LSR ‘test & trial’ project in relation to two pilot projects in the New Forest and Malvern Hills AONB.

We provided legal specialist input into the common land and SSSIs and advised on possible governance structures for the LSR in the particular context of common land.

Clinton Devon Estates

We have acted for Clinton Devon Estates, and underlying ownership entities, in structuring and drafting a partnership agreement with the Environment Agency to deliver the £15 million Lower Otter Restoration Project. This forms part of the wider Promoting Adaptation to Changing Coastlines (PACCo) initiative, which aims to demonstrate how a range of benefits for people and the environment can be delivered by adapting pre-emptively to climate change.

Agricultural tenancy precedent agreements

We have recently undertaken a wholesale review of our agricultural tenancy precedent agreements to include new clauses relating to natural capital issues and policy changes following the Agriculture Act 2020 and Environment Act 2021. There is a balance to be struck between landlord and tenant over the use of natural capital assets, the claiming of public subsidies and exploitation of private money opportunities (BNG, conservation covenants, nutrient neutrality etc.). There is also the bigger environmental picture to consider and the overarching need for priority to be given to measures which are beneficial to the environment to help the UK meet its Net Zero targets.

We consider that the starting point should be to draft in a manner which facilities environmental improvement. The aim being to encourage collaboration for the benefit of the environment alongside the primary agricultural use of the holding.


“We may just be one business, but by helping our clients to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the sustainability landscape, together we can deliver significant impact and positive change.”

Rachel O'Connor, Partner


ESG activity runs through everything that we do at Michelmores.

Being a responsible business

We strive to act as a responsible business, by reducing our impact on the environment, building social capital and harnessing our strengths to support the communities that we operate in. We measure our responsible business efforts through the Planet Mark framework.

Supporting a sustainable economy

We fully support the drive to a more sustainable global and UK economy. As well as chiming with our own principles, growth in the sustainable economy is creating opportunities among our clients, where there is increasing recognition that profit and purpose are compatible. Together with our clients, we are focused on working together to help shape a better world.

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Team members