How they work and what they mean to people affected by them
Compulsory purchase is a legal mechanism by which land can be acquired, without the consent of the land owner, to support the delivery of a range of projects such as development, regeneration and infrastructure projects in the public interest. Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) follow the procedures set out in the Acquisition of Land Act 1981.
Depending on the type of project, compulsory purchase powers may be granted through legal instruments and the most commonly used are:
- orders under the Transport and Works Act 1992 authorising the construction and operation of guided transport projects such as railways or tramways;
- development consent orders under the Planning Act 2008 authorising the construction and operation of significant infrastructure projects; and
- Hybrid Acts of Parliament authorising major infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and Crossrail.
While there are some specific differences between each process, there are important procedural elements which apply and those affected have the right to object and the ability to challenge decisions and have statutory rights to compensation.
The CPO process follows the following series of stages:
- Preliminary enquiries: acquiring authority considers whether land is required to deliver a project it is promoting and the extent of the land that may be required.
- CPO preparation and submission: acquiring authority formally ‘resolves’ to use its compulsory purchase powers and gathers detailed information about land ownership and occupation. The acquiring authority then makes the CPO, publicises it and submits it to the confirming authority.
- Objecting to a CPO: those affected by the CPO are invited to submit objections to the confirming authority.
- CPO consideration: The CPO is considered by the confirming authority through a public inquiry or written representations.
- Decision: the confirming authority decides whether to confirm, modify or reject the CPO.
- Possession and acquisition: the acquiring authority takes ownership of the land. It is worth noting here that once the CPO has been made the acquiring authority has ownership and can start works immediately.
- Compensation: there is generally a right to compensation if your land is compulsorily acquired. You should also consider whether any retained land needs any mitigation measures or rights over land that has been acquired.
The A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet road improvement scheme
The A428 which runs past St Neots is going to be replaced with a 10-mile stretch of dual carriageway from Caxton Gibbet roundabout to the Black Cat roundabout, and the land required to deliver the project will be acquired via a compulsory purchase scheme.
Planning permission (a Development Consent Order) was granted by the Secretary of State in August 2022. In May 2023, the appeal process was concluded and permission for a judicial review of the planning was refused. Therefore enabling the construction process to begin.
The aim of the proposed scheme is to improve journeys between Milton Keynes and Cambridge, supporting long term growth in the region and is estimated to cost between £810 – £950 million and, if given the go ahead.
If you think your land may be the subject of compulsory purchase you should seek advice from a suitably experienced property adviser as early as possible. A chartered surveyor, agricultural valuer or solicitor should be able to advise on your rights and act on your behalf.
David Marsh, Senior Associate
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