William Batstone

Year of call: 1982

"He is amazing. My go-to barrister in relation to agricultural disputes including partnerships, proprietry estoppel, agricultural tenancies and agricultural estates. He is truly brilliant in terms of his expertise in the law but also in terms of his approach to the case.  Calm and pragmatic. In addition to his technical brilliance, he never loses sight of the need for the client to understand what is being argued and why."
LEGAL 500 2022

William William

For 20 years, William has practised exclusively in the resolution of agricultural tenancy and related disputes, having learned the trade as a solicitor and later partner at Burges Salmon from 1994 to 2001 before returning to the Bar, having been called by Middle Temple in 1982.

William is instructed by solicitors and chartered surveyors on behalf of their clients, by arbitrators appointed to resolve disputes concerning agricultural holdings and he accepts appointments himself to act as arbitrator in such disputes. William is a trained mediator and his part-time judicial role as a Deputy District Judge since 2001 adds to his experience.

Agricultural Tenancies

On 3 December 2021, William was successful in obtaining judgment for landlords of agricultural land in Gwynedd that a notice to quit was valid even though it was addressed to Mr Thomas and not the company to whom he had assigned the tenancy shortly before service of the notice. HHJ Jarman QC held that in circumstances in which Mr Thomas was the sole director and shareholder of the company and company secretary, he carried on farming the land on behalf of the company and he knew or is to be taken as knowing that notice of the assignment had not been given to the landlords, the notice was valid despite not being addressed to the company, the tenant. Applying the Mannai test, in those circumstances a reasonable recipient would appreciate that the notice should have been addressed to the company and was intended to be valid to terminate the tenancy. It was plain that a reasonable tenant could not be misled by the notice and would be in no doubt that if it wished the tenancy to continue a counter-notice should be served, which did not happen (Turner v Thomas [2021] 12 WLUK 78).

In 2021 William acted for the tenant of an agricultural holding in South Wales served with three notices to quit under cover of letters which purported to be duplicates of each other, one sent by recorded delivery and the other by ordinary first-class post, but which contained different enclosures: one letter enclosed Notice A and B; and the other Notice A and C. The tenant was misled into serving counter-notices to challenge only Notices A and B and has commenced proceedings in the High Court seeking a declaration that Notice C, if not all three notices, is invalid on the grounds of fraud.

In 2020 William concluded advising an arbitrator appointed to determine the validity of a Case D notice to quit a farm in Hampshire on the grounds of non-compliance with a notice to pay rent. The tenant represented himself and relied on the fact that there were no arrears of rent at the time of service of the notice to pay because he claimed to have agreed a rent reduction to the figure shown in a rent review memorandum prepared by the landlord’s agents which was different from the rent increase proposed in the agents’ covering letter. The matter was further complicated by the tenant’s reliance on landlord’s disrepair by way of set-off against the rent due in order to reduce the rent due and thus invalidate the notice to pay. This made it necessary for the arbitrator to consider whether the terms of the tenancy permitted the set-off and whether the principle applied in the Scots case of Alexander v Royal Hotel (Caithness) Ltd [2001] 1 EGLR 6 should be applied south of the border.

In 2020 William assisted in securing directions from the First-tier Tribunal entitling the son of a deceased tenant of two agricultural holdings in Hampshire to new tenancies in succession to his father. The case was complicated by the fact that the client had farmed one holding, ‘Whiteacre’, with father while the other holding, ‘Blackacre’, was farmed by his sister on her own account but it was on Blackacre that the client lived and from which he and father had run their business. The sister applied for succession to Blackacre and challenged the client’s designation in father’s will as his successor to Blackacre as well as Whiteacre. The FTT ruled in the client’s favour on that issue and eventually, with the help of an expert forensic accountant, the client was able to overcome the landlords’ reluctance to accept that the client satisfied the livelihood condition in respect of Blackacre, because it had been farmed by his sister as a separate business throughout the 7 years ending with father’s death, and secure directions by consent in respect of both holdings.

In 2020 William acted for the landlord of a farm in Wales faced with an application by the son of the deceased tenant for a direction entitling him to a new tenancy which named as landlord not the company, which owned the farm and to whom rent had been paid by father, but the individual who controlled the company. The ALTW held that the company was indeed the landlord but that the application naming the wrong landlord was not invalid and could proceed to a determination on its merits. William secured permission to appeal from the Upper Tribunal but at a hearing which William was unable to attend (Adams v Jones [2021] UKUT 9 (LC)), the appeal was dismissed. The Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 does not actually require a succession application to name the landlord; the failure to do so was an irregularity which was not fatal to the validity of the application; and in the circumstances the ALTW reached the right conclusion in excusing the irregularity.

In 2019 William acted for the tenant of a farm in Hampshire served with a Case B notice to quit on the grounds that the farm was required as part of a large-scale housing development. William persuaded the arbitrator that the landlord had not established that the land was required for a non-agricultural use, because too much remained to be achieved in terms of compliance with planning conditions and because the landlord had not been able to secure any witness evidence from the developer, so that the notice to quit had to be awarded to be invalid.

In 2019 William acted for the son of the deceased tenant of a farm on Anglesey whose application was complicated by the fact that the landlord’s reply to the application appeared to be out of time and the landlord spent months seeking to overcome the effect of that and to be able to participate fully in the defence of the application, by applications to the Agricultural Land Tribunal (Wales) and the Upper Tribunal. Ultimately the landlord was unsuccessful and so was limited to giving its views on the applicant’s suitability. In the event the landlord was represented at the hearing before the ALT(W) in an observational capacity so that it was necessary for William to appear by way of a skeleton argument only and his instructing solicitor conducted the hearing and obtaining the direction giving entitlement to a new tenancy (Evans v Bodorgan Properties (CI) Limited (ALT 06/2017)).

In 2019 William acted for landlords of a farm on an estate in Oxfordshire who responded to the succession application by the son of the deceased tenant by applying for consent to the operation of the Case G notice to quit on grounds of sound estate management and so recover vacant possession of the holding. The landlords’ plan was to divide the holding between two adjoining farms to make them more profitable and reduce the administrative burden on the estate. The First-tier Tribunal found the applicant to be a suitable person to be the tenant, despite the fact that he owned assets of about £3.6m, being an experienced and skilful farmer, whose resources did not detract from but confirmed his suitability. The FTT rejected the application for consent on grounds which included not being satisfied that the alternative management plan was better than the existing one, given their view about the applicant’s suitability and doubts about the sustainability of the business to be undertaken on one of the other holdings with the additional acreage (Carr v Evelyn & Ors. (ALD/SE/S/2016/006)).

In 2018 William acted for the purchaser of a farm in Wales in its application to the Land Registration Division of the FTT to delete an entry on the register of the company’s title noting the benefit of a right of way for the benefit of an uninhabitable shell of a cottage adjoining the farm along a track over the farm, secured by the owner of the cottage prior to his sale to the First Defendant. The basis of the application was a mistake in the register because if the Registrar had known the true facts about the historical use of the track, as revealed by the evidence to the FTT, and had not been misled by the untruthful account in the ST4 submitted by the previous owner, the entry would not have been made. The FTT agreed that the true facts did not justify the registration of the easement acquired by prescription noted on the register or any easement. The FTT was not persuaded that there were exceptional circumstances justifying not altering the register. The First Defendant would be left without any access to his property but the FTT was satisfied that he was put on notice of a possible problem with the right of way before he was committed to the purchase and decided to take the chance of being able to resolve any problems by agreement (Towyn Development Co Ltd v Davies & Ors. (REF/2016/0910&0911)).

In 2017 William acted for the tenant of two holdings in Cornwall in successfully resisting Case E notices to quit reliant on alleged irremediable breaches of the terms of the tenancies and partially resisting Case D notices to remedy alleged breaches and obtaining an arbitrator’s award that the Case E notices were invalid and ineffective to terminate the tenancies and that a single breach had to be remedied and extending the time for that to be done. William also acted in the unsuccessful High Court challenges to the award by both landlord and tenant (Smyth-Tyrrell v Sowden [2017] EWHC 2331 (Ch) & Sowden v Smyth-Tyrrell [2017] EWHC 2477 (Ch)) and in an unsuccessful judicial review challenge to the award by the landlord.

Farming Partnerships

William regularly advises clients concerned with farming partnerships. In 2020, William issued an award as arbitrator appointed by the NFU in a family farming partnership dispute about the correct interpretation of a valuation clause in a partnership deed concerning the amount to be paid by the continuing partners to the estate of a deceased partner.

Farm Cottages

William regularly advises clients upon the application of the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 and Chapter III of the Housing Act 1988 to the occupation of farm cottages.

Proprietary Estoppel

In Davies v Davies [2015] EWHC 1384 (Ch) William acted for James Davies in securing an order for the transfer to him of a farm in west Wales, less the bungalow in which his mother lived, by the application of the doctrine of proprietary estoppel. The Judge found that James’s late father had made promises to him that the farm would be his if he stayed home and worked on the farm with him. The Judge also found that James acted to his detriment by not pursuing a career in the police but working on the farm for long hours for low pay and after his parents semi-retired, investing substantial sums of his own money in a new building and other improvements. The dispute arose because father took against James’s wife and made a will which allowed James to occupy the farm until he reached 60 and then for it to be sold and the proceeds divided equally between James and his four siblings. The siblings and mother opposed the claim because they had heard nothing about the promises, either from father or James, but the Judge found it unsurprising that father would not confide in his other children about his inheritance plans and also found that he had confided in a close friend. The Judge also found that father had made cash gifts to his other children over the years in order to deal fairly between his children as best he could.

Since the Davies case William has seen an increase in the number of clients seeking his advice about pursuing or resisting claims to interests in farms based on the application of the doctrine of proprietary estoppel.

Recommendations


CLIENT FEEDBACK

“Thank you for arranging a conference with such a lovely and knowledgeable barrister. Really appreciated. He certainly knows his stuff.” - Client, March 2022

LEGAL 500 2022

Property and Construction

‘He is always thorough; clients have fiath in his advice.’

Ranked: Tier 1

Agriculture

‘He is amazing.  My go-to barrister in relation to agricultural disputes including partnerships, proprietry estoppel, agricultural tenancies and agricultural estates.  He is truly brilliant in terms of his expertise in the law but also in terms of his approach to the case.  Calm and pragmatic.  In addition to his technical brilliance, he never loses sight of the need for the client to understand what is being argued and why.’

Ranked: Tier 1


CHAMBERS UK 2021

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

Band 1

A highly regarded practitioner with a focus on rural and agricultural tenancy disputes. He acts for farmers and landowners and attracts praise for his ability to work closely with his clients and to provide clear advice. He also sits as an arbitrator in a range of rural property and farming partnership disputes.

Strengths: "He really is a fantastic advocate and you always know the client will be totally taken care of with him." "He has an understanding of some very niche areas of agricultural legislation and has immense experience."


LEGAL 500 2021

Property and Construction

‘Very user friendly. Thorough. Well respected.’

Ranked: Tier 1

Agriculture

‘Unflappable, responsive, and exceptionally knowledgeable in the field of agricultural tenancies. His advocacy style is thorough and measured - he avoids grandstanding or overly dramatic oral submissions.’

Ranked: Tier 1


CHAMBERS UK 2020

Agricultural & Rural Affairs

A highly regarded practitioner with a focus on rural and agricultural tenancy disputes. He acts for farmers and landowners and attracts praise for his ability to work closely with his clients and to provide clear advice.

Strengths: "He's an excellent advocate and provides excellent advice." "He is exceptional with clients, his written advice is very clear and he is an impressive advocate." "He is able to take a commercial view throughout a case."


LEGAL 500 2020

Property

"An impressive advocate who provides clear advice."


CHAMBERS UK 2019

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

A highly regarded practitioner with a focus on rural and agricultural tenancy disputes. He acts for farmers and landowners.

"He has a very calm, considered and persuasive manner in court and his written work is thorough, well thought out and logical." "He always acts promptly and provides clear and considered advice. He is always a pleasure to instruct and work with."


LEGAL 500 2019

Property

‘Very experienced in farming landlord and tenant disputes.’


CHAMBERS UK 2018

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

Leading Junior - Band 1

A notable rural property specialist who regularly acts for landowners and tenants. He is particularly well regarded for his in-depth knowledge of agricultural tenancy issues.

Strengths: "He's a very experienced, very thorough barrister - he's exceptional on paper, very clear and concise, and exceptionally good in person with clients." "He's excellent on his feet."


LEGAL 500 2017

Property

Leading juniors

‘He demonstrates brilliant client rapport.’


CHAMBERS UK 2017

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

Leading Junior - Band 1

A highly regarded barrister with a broad agricultural and rural property practice. He is noted for his expertise in agricultural tenancy disputes.

Strengths: "He really is an expert in the field of agricultural tenancies - his knowledge and experience are unrivalled. His advice is always produced promptly and it is clear and easy to follow. He is also very easy to work with and approachable."


LEGAL 500 2016

Property

Leading juniors

'One of the foremost authorities on agricultural tenancies.'


CHAMBERS UK 2016

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

Leading Junior - Band 1

William Batstone is a heavyweight figure with experience of handling a wide range of agricultural and rural property disputes. His expertise covers proprietary estoppel claims, landlord and tenant disputes and rights of way. He has previously been appointed a Deputy District Judge.

Strengths: "He is the go-to lawyer for landlord and tenant work. His knowledge is unrivalled, he is very user-friendly and turns work around incredibly fast." "He is a genuine expert - very experienced and thorough in everything he does - and gives a balance opinion."


LEGAL 500 2015

Property

Leading juniors

'A very knowledgeable, wise and measured adviser with real authority'.


CHAMBERS UK 2015

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

Leading Junior - Band 1

Agricultural expert who advises farmers, landowners and arbitrators on rural property and tenancy disputes. He has considerable experience of litigation arising under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 and also assists with land use regulation, sporting rights and access issues. He previously worked as a solicitor.

Expertise: "He gives first-rate advice on option agreements and agricultural tenancies." "He is always comprehensive in his advice and has a good grasp of the commercial reality of the situation."


LEGAL 500 2014

Property

Leading Juniors

Acts for landowners and farmers in agricultural and property disputes'.


CHAMBERS UK 2014

Is regularly instructed on behalf of landowners, farmers, and arbitrators in connection with both agricultural and rural property litigation. He is a vastly experienced practitioner who also practised as a solicitor for six years.

Expertise: "He is enormously experienced in pure agricultural work."


CHAMBERS UK 2013

William Batstone is a rural property expert who is considered to be "extremely knowledgeable but also very approachable and down-to-earth." He frequently advises clients on a range of matters, including disputes under the Agricultural Holdings Act (1986) and Agricultural Tenancies Act (1995), farming partnership conflicts, and farming-related professional negligence claims.

William Batstone's forte lies in chancery and rural property issues. He frequently acts for landowners and tenants.


CHAMBERS UK 2012

William Batstone of Guildhall Chambers is praised for his in-depth knowledge of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 and village greens law. Leading solicitors consider him to be "pleasant to work with, intellectually commanding and a match for any other barrister in the discipline."


CHAMBERS UK 2011

William Batstone of Guildhall Chambers is extremely highly regarded in the region. As an ex-Burges Salmon solicitor, he remains a popular choice for instructing solicitors, who appreciate his experience and depth of knowledge. He is best known for his advice to landowners and farmers in the resolution of agricultural and rural property disputes, and he continues to handle a busy case load in this area. Sources commend his "straightforward and down-to-earth approach."


CHAMBERS UK 2010

Ex-Burges Salmon solicitor William Batstone is a leading junior in the region. Widely recognised and very much acclaimed by his peers, he comes with strong recommendations and commentators say that they "can't sing his praises enough". His main practice area is the resolution of agricultural and rural property disputes on behalf of landowners and farmers. "He is very succinct, delivers and has huge depth of knowledge", one source comments. He recently acted for a Devon landowner who was successful in securing the revocation of a stop notice served on him by Natural England, in relation to the carrying out of drainage works on 19 hectares of land.


CHAMBERS UK 2009

William Batstone undertakes a large proportion of agricultural work involving disputes relating to the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 and the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995. His remarkable courtroom manner has led to a consensus amongst sources that, "Bristol is very lucky to have him - he is very good".

CLERK CONTACT INFORMATION

For further information and enquiries please contact:

Property & Estates: Joe StayteStephen Arnold or Jordan Yandell

Appointments

  • Deputy District Judge 2001
  • Trained Mediator 2018

Memberships

  • Agricultural Law Association
  • Chancery Bar Association

education

  • Diploma in Law, City University
  • BA Hons in Philosophy, York University
  • Marlborough College