Compulsory Purchase of Land

Compulsory purchase is a legal mechanism by which certain bodies can acquire land without the consent of the owner. Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) follow the procedures set out in the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 and they may be granted to support the delivery of a range of projects in the public interest.

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 202. 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.

The CPO Process

Compulsory purchase powers may be granted through legal instruments and depend on the type of project. The most commonly used are Orders under the Transport and Works Act 1992 which authorise the construction and operation of guided transport projects, such as railways or tramways; Development Consent Orders under the Planning Act 2008 which authorise the construction and operation of infrastructure projects; and Hybrid Acts of Parliament which authorise major infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and Crossrail.

There are specific differences between each CPO process but there are also important procedural elements which apply to all and they follow the following series of stages:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Objecting to a CPO

Those affected by the CPO are invited to submit objections to the confirming authority.

4. CPO consideration

The CPO is considered by the confirming authority through a public inquiry or written representations.

5. Decision

The confirming authority decides whether to confirm, modify or reject the CPO.

6. 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.

7. 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.

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