Historic Properties and Their Drone Policies

Following on from the great NT bylaw/policy debate and my recent flight with permission at Layer Marney Tower I have contacted a number of privately owned historic properties in East Anglia asking for permission to fly on and over their land.

Three replies so far and all have say NO with Holkham Hall being one.

Dear Mr ****

Thank you for your email. As requested here is a link to our drone policy:

If there is anything else that we can help with please do get in touch.

Kind regards
Emma Bushell

Their policy:

Holkham Estate Drone Policy

Drones on Holkham Estate
With an increase in enquiries and interest in the use of drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to film or photograph Holkham Estate and land, we need to be careful to balance these possibilities with the need to protect and conserve the land and buildings and to ensure safety for our visitors and wildlife.

Drone Guidance
We will not grant permission to fly for amateur or student filming or approve requests from any fliers who seek permission in return for access and use of the footage obtained. The use of UAVs or drones is not permitted on or over any Holkham land without prior written approval. If use is approved by Holkham Estate then the following conditions will apply.

Drone Flight Conditions (If Approved)
All operators must hold the following:

  • A current and valid CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) ‘Permission for Commercial Operations’ (PFCO) licence.
  • Evidence of valid insurance cover with a minimum of £5million cover.
  • A risk assessment for the proposed flight.
  • A method statement outlining what equipment will be used.
  • A flight plan outlining where flying is proposed.

All drone operations must be conducted strictly in accordance with CAA legislation and regulations, two elements to draw attention to below:

  • UAVs/drones are not permitted to be flown within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.
  • UAVs/drones should not be flown within 50 metres of any person except during take-off or landing or within 30 metres of any person except for the person in charge of the aircraft.

Next Steps
If you are interested in flying a drone/UAV for filming on the Holkham Estate, please contact Holkham Estate’s Location Managers to discuss your project. paul@norfolklocations.co.uk or george@norfolklocations.co.uk

My reply:

Dear Sirs,

Whilst I fully accept that you have every right to restrict the take off and landing of UAV’s on your property as well as the right to take still and moving images I would like to point out that you cannot regulate the airspace above it. Only specific bylaws, PSPO’s and the CAA can do that through NFZ’s and FRZ’s. If for example a pilot took off from a public place 1.5 miles away (the drone I use has a max distance of 6 miles) and flew over your property at anywhere from 100ft to 400ft it would be perfectly legal and any images or video taken would be the sole property of the pilot who’s taken it. Image rights would be the same as any taken on public land on the ground. On your land however, that’s a whole different matter.

I’d also point out that your policy is somewhat out of date with regards to the CAA Drone Code regulations (CAP722 Edition 8) and specifically the use of sub 250gm UAV’s, including those fitted with a camera. With the change in regulations that came into effect on January 1st 2021 if your drone weighs less that 250 gms there is no minimum distance from either uninvolved people or properties. I attach the relevant pages from the new CAA Drone Code.

I understand the changes in regulation may cause one or two issues for estates such as yours which is why I reached out to you and asked permission in the first instance.

Kind regards

Phil *******

Essex on Film

This is going to become an every increasing problem for owners and estates going forward. If you come up against such policies that hold no water in law please take the time to try and politely educate those concerned otherwise all responsible drone pilots will end up suffering the bad press that could be generated by one property landowner that’s not aware.

Anyway, sorry for the long post but I’m a little passionate about this particular subject. We as drone pilots have rights too and just like muscles, use them or lose them :wink:

Do you just accept what you’re told regardless of the actual law?


Might have a little difficulty convincing people you stayed LOS and legal, especially using a Mini 2 :joy:
I get your point though :+1:t2:


They don’t like you on the beach there either ;o)


It might also be worth pointing out to them that taking pot shots at drones flying over their land is an offense

1 Like

I live in Scotland and am having similar issues with Historic Scotland.

As far as I’m concerned as long as I take off and land outside their land then there is nothing they can do. However if something goes wrong and you damage property or injure someone you might be on a sticky wicket but in saying that you could be in bother no matter where you fly if things go wrong.

That’s why for the sake of 50 quid it’s worthwhile taking out £5m of PLI with FPV

A quick update. Another private landowner that recognises the need to update their policies.

On 4 May 2021, at 14:35, George Wilcox george@norfolklocations.co.uk wrote:

Hi Phil,

Thanks for the note.

We are in discussions with the CAA at the moment about the new laws and how they apply and will be updating our drone policy once it’s clear to us.

Couple things to cover off here and please bear in mind we are still going through the new laws.

  • Drone License / permit CAA - my understanding of this is you need to have VLOS, unless you have permission from the CAA to fly EVLOS, but that tends to require spotters along it’s path to ensure an element of VLOS… so although a drone can fly 6miles the CAA don’t permit this correct? If you were to fly EVLOS you would require spotters on the estate lands which permission for this would be required.

  • The Skies - parts of the estate are a SSSI Nature reserve and under the conservation act we are able to permit or not permit drone filming if the conservation team and Natural England deem it unsafe for bird life in either the migration or nesting season.

  • Permission - the estate does grant permission for drone take offs and landing on their land but this comes with various risk mitigation criteria and takes time and ultimately costs. With that in mind this is one of the reasons the estate charges for permission.The charge for this tends to be out of reach for smaller budget projects. We are also aware that lots fo visitors come to the estate to enjoy its tranquility and although drones are fascinating pieces of kit we want to protect this tranquility for the rest of the visitors experience and as such want to be part of the process for any filming across the estates land…Finally there are lots of activities on the estate some of which also could be using drones and we need to be able to stay across the safety on this matter so understanding the complete picture of what is in the sky is a sensible way to do that

Happy to continue discussing this and also to update you once our policy has changed.


George Wilcox


Good evening George and thank you for your reply.

Drone License / permit CAA - As you say all pilots must stay within visual line of sight at all times regardless of the size of UAV and obviously 6 miles is way beyond that but with the advent of high intensity miniature strobe lights a small sub 250gm drone can be kept within VLOS at 600m at between 200ft and 400ft and still remain under the 250gm weight limit. If you look on YouTube there are hundreds of videos of privately owned country houses and mansions that have been filmed from public at distance without putting anyone or anything in jeopardy.

The Skies - Fully understand and respect those rules. I had the same conversation with Maldon District Council after I flew over the salt marsh by the River Crouch. They have sinse supplied me with dates and times when I can and cannot fly there.

Permission - This is why I reached out to yourselves. I wouldn’t expect to be allowed to fly during open periods or when events are taking place although the restrictions on flying over or near people no longer apply. The change in regulations in January have seen an explosion in small drone ownership here in the UK with the manufacturer of the most popular, DJI and their Mini 2, having sold over 98,000 units in the UK alone sinse its launch last November so it’s encouraging to hear that you are in discussions with the CAA to gauge how this will effect you. As you can appreciate if it effects you it effects every other private country house and estate throughout the UK and Scotland. The regulations change again in Jan 2023 but not to the extent that it will curtail their use.

We are a responsible community and wish to work with people such as yourselves, the National Trust, English Heritage and local councils to enable us to continue to enjoy our recreational hobby whilst at the same time keeping it safe and not upsetting the public or wildlife but I have to say that will require attitudes towards small recreational cameras drones to change not just by some landowners but also by the public at large.

Please keep me informed of any updates you make to your policy as this may well help in future discussions I/we may have with others.

Kind regards

Phil Alsford

Essex on Film


Hi Phil, I had the same response from NT, indeed from the same lady, when I enquired about over-flying Hardwick Hall. So it appears to be a stock letter, sent to everyone making this type of enquiry. I am not convinced they actually have anyone “qualified” to asses the pro’s and con’s, however, what the NT and other seem to overlook, is the fact that they are effectively getting free advertising of their sites/locations, which can only promote them and their membership numbers.

I agree responsible pilots will always seek permission and even when granted will always attempt to minimise any disruption caused by their flying.

I doubt, sadly, it is a situation which will be resolved anytime soon.

Great effort on your part btw.


That’s why you have insurance either commercial or as a hobbiest BMFA & FPVUK also work to article 16 so long as the appropriate safety requirements are met then there should be no reason you’d be on a sticky wicket. Lol.

Unless the owner has copyright transfer from the builder or architect of a building then they don’t own copyright regarding the use of images.
The ONLY exception stopping photography is if you purchase a ticket or sign a contract that in its T’s & C’s state no photography or gives them specific rights over said images etc. Then you would be breaching contract law.
Scare tactics - used for millennia.

Not sure how you’d maintain VLOS though if your TOAL point is outside the estates property & it’s a big estate.
I’m a member of DroneSAR4 lost dogs & as a side benefit there’s been some amazing estates I’ve been given permission to fly over when looking for the lost dogs, making great contacts along the way. Subsequently I’ve then had the opportunity to return at a later date & I’ve been allowed to fly as a ‘thank you’ I guess. Being polite & professional at all times works wonders too.

1 Like

VLOS is their main arguing point and I agree the vast majority of estates worth filming haven’t any public access anywhere close to 400 to 600 meters away.

Of the dozen or so country estates in East Anglia I spent an evening emailing the vast majority have just said simply no, we have a no drone [policy and that’s that but I have had some very encouraging feedback from one or two very large estates so fingers crossed a weekend away with the missus to North Norfolk could be on the cards :slight_smile:

I went and got cover with FPVUK as suggested by folk on this forum so all good to go now :grinning:

1 Like

Not even then in the UK. All photos of buildings are copyright-free in the UK.


Wise man. Although not required it can go a long way in showing responsibility and consideration when approaching someone for permission to fly. :clap: :clap: :clap:

I’d need to look into that further as RIBA has some specifics in their details. My understanding is the person creating the design can claim copyright for that design. (providing it’s not a derivative of previous designs - ie your 3 bed 1950’s semi copy n paste)

Holkham estate own the beach from Holkham all the way to Wells Next the Sea so technically no take off or landing anywhere along that piece of coastline. They also have a strict policy on photography in general. I understand that you have to buy a licence from them if you want to take pictures on their land for commercial gain.

I can vouch for this. My wife and I got engaged on Holkham Beach. Our wedding photographer threw in an “engagement shoot” as part of the package and explored taking the photos at Holkham. I understand they were particularly unhelpful, so we ended up going elsewhere.

1 Like

Their land they can do what they like and charge what they like. Off site they have absolutely no claim on images rights whatsoever. At least that’s my understanding of the law on public photography. I will have to do a little research as to where exactly their land ownership boundaries start and finish and use Google maps and the OS to see if there’s an area I can use and still get good arial video of the house and it’s gardens.

You can wander around the Holkham estate and take as many pictures as you want of the grounds and the house etc. you’re just not allowed to sell those pictures on for profit unless you’ve bought a licence from Holkham. I’ve been told that Holkham actively search for the unauthorised sale of pictures taken of their property and attempt to get them blocked. The footpaths through the grounds are not public rights of way and are permissive only so I guess they have the right to stipulate the way pictures are taken and how they’re used.

As far as trying to fly a drone over the estate is concerned, I’m going to say impossible without breaking CAA rules on drone use. The closest you can get to the main house on a public road is about 1km. The estate is bounded by a wall with woodland obscuring any views of the land. Holkham also owns most of the land and farmland in the area for several miles around. Even if you could get permission to take off from one of the nearest tenant farmers, there’s no way you could fly to the main house and keep your drone in sight.

Here’s one completely bonkers situation: Holkham own the land and beach at Wells Next The Sea. You can take pictures of the beach huts using a phone or a normal camera - absolutely no problem, but you can’t use a drone for taking similar pictures because it means taking off on Holkham land (i.e. the beach). The beach can be deserted but it’s technically a no-no on drone use.

1 Like

Thanks Tom, saved me a sitting in front of Google for a couple of hours. Scrub that one off the list then :+1: