The Law of Compulsory Purchase

The Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 was the third of three recent enactments which have made major changes to the statutory provisions relating to compulsory purchase of land (or rights over land) and the assessment of compensation in consequence.

The Localism Act 2011, Part 9 and the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017, Part 2 together enact the majority of the recommendations relating to the assessment of compensation made by the Law Commission about fifteen years ago in its Report 'Towards a Compulsory Purchase Code: (1) Compensation' (Law Com No. 286). The changes which have been brought about by these two Acts relate principally to the assumptions which may be made about the grant of planning permission in the absence of the compulsory purchase and the ‘no-scheme’ rule for the assessment of compensation.  The Housing and Planning Act 2016, Part 7 enacted a range of procedural changes some of which had been recommended in the Law Commission’s Report “Towards a Compulsory Purchase Code: (2) Procedure” (Law Com No. 291).

The recent legislation has introduced some complications because many of the changes have been brought into force on different dates and are only applicable to compulsory purchase orders made after a specified date. Consequently, practitioners advising about compulsory purchase which began prior to the relevant commencement date or about compensation arising out of compulsory purchase which began prior to the relevant commencement date will continue to need the pre-existing statutory provisions.

These recent enactments merely amend the existing legislation, principally the Land Compensation Act 1961, whereas the Law Commission had recommended a ‘clean sweep’ to amend and consolidate all the relevant legislation. While most of the changes that have been made are welcome, the failure to modernise the legislation as a whole is unfortunate. The Law Commission described the current law as 'a patchwork of diverse rules, derived from a variety of statutes and cases over more than 100 years which are neither accessible to those affected nor readily capable of interpretation save by specialists'. There will continue to be a need for specialist lawyers and surveyors to find the way through the 'patchwork' of rules.

Guy Roots QC and Richard Honey are authors of The Law of Compulsory Purchase. 

Written by Ellie MacKenzie

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