April 5, 2023

Major review under way of compulsory purchase orders

A review is under way of the legislation that governs compulsory purchase orders (CPOs).

The Government has tasked the Law Commission of England and Wales to undertake the review to make the law simpler, consistent and more accessible.

What is a compulsory purchase order?

As the name implies, a compulsory purchase is the acquiring of land without the consent of the owner.

This is usually implemented with large-scale projects to improve local and national infrastructure.

In the context of compulsory purchase, land may include houses or any other buildings as well as the land itself.

For compulsory purchase, a public authority can include a company with public duties, such as an electricity or water company.

Notable areas where CPOs were imposed included major rail projects like London’s Crossrail project and the HS2 high-speed railway line. Other examples include:

· Major building projects like airport expansions, housing developments or flood defence works

· Improving or installing services, for example, electric pylons, water mains or road or rail improvement

· Clearing areas of bad housing

The Commission was asked by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) late last year to review the current law on compulsory purchase, to ensure that it supports the critical infrastructure needs of today and delivers for local communities.

The Commission’s review follows concerns that the law of compulsory purchase in England and Wales is fragmented, hard to access and in need of modernisation. The review also follows the Government’s commitment in its 2022 White Paper, “Levelling Up the United Kingdom” to enhance compulsory purchase powers.

The Commission will examine the technical laws concerning:

· The procedures governing the acquisition of land through compulsory purchase orders (CPOs).

· The system for assessing the compensation awarded to parties about such acquisitions

Nicholas Paines KC, Public Law commissioner, said: “I am pleased that the Law Commission is undertaking this review. Our project will help to ensure that the law governing compulsory purchase is modernised and simplified – so that it can better support future projects at a local and national level.

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