Last Updated on 23.11.23 by Paul Dowdall
A Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) is a legal function exercised by various authorities in the UK to acquire land or property without the consent of the owner, for public benefit or development projects. While the concept of a CPO is rooted in the betterment of the community, it can evoke feelings of anxiety and frustration among property owners.
During the planning for HS2, the UK Government set about making a large number of compulsory purchases to make way for the large infrastructure project. This led to many families and businesses having to leave their much-loved homes and premises. The argument runs that these purchases are made for the greater good of the community and the country as a whole, but that doesn’t make the process any easier for people who don’t want to lose their homes.
In this blog, we’ll demystify the process surrounding CPO’s, giving you the info you need on what to expect and outlining any steps you can take to protect your interests.
Understanding Compulsory Purchase Orders
At its core, a Compulsory Purchase Order is a legal tool that enables local authorities, Government departments, and certain public bodies to acquire land or property for public use or development. The powers to issue a CPO are derived from various pieces of legislation, most notably the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
The process begins with the issuing authority identifying the land required for a specific project. Following this, a CPO is drafted and submitted for confirmation to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities or, in certain cases, the respective devolved government.
Your Rights as a Property Owner
It’s imperative to understand your rights in the face of a CPO. While the order is a lawful means of acquiring property, as a property owner, you are entitled to fair compensation. The Compensation Code (which is a set of rules and principles governing compensation), is designed to ensure that you are reimbursed fairly for the loss of your property.
Various legal precedents have shaped the CPO landscape, offering insight into how the law has been interpreted and applied. For instance, the case of ‘Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd v Wolverhampton City Council ’ set a precedent regarding the necessity of a compelling case in the public interest for a CPO to be confirmed.
Although the above case is commercial in nature, it set a precedent that had wider implications for all CPO’s. The details of the case were that Wolverhampton City Council favoured a redevelopment scheme by Tesco Stores Ltd over Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd for a site at Raglan Street, Wolverhampton. Sainsbury’s challenged the decision, arguing that Tesco’s offer to contribute financially towards another development in Wolverhampton (the Royal Hospital Site) was unrelated to the Raglan Street site development and should not influence the CPO decision.
The Council and Tesco argued that Tesco’s offer of a financial contribution to the Royal Hospital development was a legitimate consideration under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The Supreme Court, by a 4-3 majority, sided with Sainsbury’s, stating that while “off-site” benefits could be considered in CPO decisions, a strict approach is required due to the serious invasion of property rights involved. The Court found that the connection between Tesco’s offer towards the Royal Hospital Site and the Raglan Street development was insufficient to warrant the Council’s decision, thus setting a precedent on the considerations Local Councils can account for when issuing a CPO.
Challenging a Compulsory Purchase Order
If you wish to challenge a CPO, you should seek legal counsel immediately. The process of contesting a CPO is intricate, and professional guidance can significantly enhance your chances of a favourable outcome.
- Objecting to the Order:
Once a CPO is issued, a public notice is served, providing a window for objections. You can file an objection if you believe the order is unjust, the project doesn’t serve the public interest, or due process hasn’t been followed
- Public Inquiry:
Should there be unresolved objections, a Public Inquiry may be held. This is a formal process where a Government-appointed inspector evaluates the merits of the CPO and objections raised against it.
- Legal Representation:
Having a solicitor to represent your case during the Public Inquiry is crucial. They can help articulate your objection effectively and present evidence supporting your stance.
Preparing for Compensation
Should your challenge be unsuccessful, preparing for compensation is the next step. Engaging a professional valuer alongside your solicitor will help to ensure that you receive a fair assessment of your property’s value and the compensation you’re owed.
Obtain a professional valuation of your property to serve as a basis for compensation negotiations.
Negotiating the compensation can be a complex process, it’s advisable to have your solicitor and valuer present to ensure your interests are well-represented.
- Claim Submission:
Once a settlement is reached, a formal claim is submitted to the acquiring authority, finalising the compensation process.
Legal Support and Guidance
Securing a seasoned solicitor who is well-versed in CPO’s is essential. They can guide you through the objection process, represent you during any Public Inquiry, and ensure that you receive fair compensation.
Facing a Compulsory Purchase Order can be a daunting experience. However, understanding your rights, the process of challenging a CPO, and preparing for compensation can alleviate some of the anxiety associated with it. Seeking professional legal advice is paramount in navigating the intricacies of CPO’s and ensuring that your interests are protected throughout the process. The Gorvins property team have experts on hand to give you practical advice, legal support and peace of mind.