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When a farmer knows his… potatoes

As a member of the NFU Legal Panel, we are well used to dealing with queries from farming clients under the Legal Assistance Scheme.

One recent query took us to the High Court in Manchester: how do you prove loss of opportunity?


Our client, an NFU member, has farmed on the Fylde coast for over 40 years. It would be fair to say he knows his potatoes!

In 2017, Electricity North West Limited (the Defendant) carried out works in our client’s field off the Peel Road in Blackpool (the Peel Field). The works to replace an underground cable were permitted under two deeds of grant.

Our client is the tenant of the Peel Field under a 2013 agreement with the freeholder. He had planned to grow potatoes in 2018 but couldn’t because of severe damage caused by the Defendant’s works.

He claimed damages for trespass and negligence. The Defendant contended that our client couldn’t prove that he had intended to sow potatoes in the Peel field in 2018.


“…the defendant adopted something of a scorched earth approach in contesting almost each and every building block of the claim. This has led to the case becoming far more complex than must have appeared at the time the damage occurred…”

Although our client’s agreement with the freeholder was “…an informal yet essentially business-like arrangement, his oral evidence was enough to satisfy the court. His local knowledge further influenced his conduct.

The judge, finding for our client, held that the Defendant owed our client a duty to take reasonable care not to damage the Peel Field and to put right any unavoidable damage.

After a three-day trial, our client was awarded £55k for his loss of profit. The Defendant also had to pay our costs.


The absence of farming records and a formal lease didn’t prevent our client from succeeding in his claim. As stated by the judge, our client “…knows his particular business extremely well but is not at all good at creating or retaining paper records”. This is where detailed witness evidence is key.

It is, of course, prudent to retain proper records. The existence of farm records and a formal lease would likely have led to a much quicker resolution.

NFU members can access the Legal Assistance Scheme by calling 0370 845 8458.

For more information about this article or any other aspect of agricultural litigation and dispute resolution, contact your Napthens Solicitors in Preston, Kendal, Southport and across the North West today.

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