Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs)

Our expert compulsory purchase lawyers advise acquiring authorities, developers and individuals on compulsory purchase order (CPO) and compensation matters.

What is a Compulsory Purchase Order?

A Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) is an order made by an acquiring authority such as a local authority, Highways England, utility company, housing developer (or in certain circumstances a development corporation). The Order gives the legal right to buy or take land or property from you without your consent, for the benefit of the public whether you want to retain it or not, in return for compensation.

In the East of England, CPOs are currently en vogue due to the A14 road widening scheme, new rail links between Ely and Cambridge, and of course Cambridge and Oxford; in other parts of the country schemes such as HS2, new train and tram lines, regeneration schemes, shopping developments and even easements for waterways may owe their development in part to CPOs.

As well as conferring powers of compulsory purchase of land, some statutes enable the acquiring authority to acquire rights over land. This is common on highway schemes, where not only is land required to build a new road, but it will also be necessary to enter adjoining land for the purposes of construction and maintenance.

Bridges are sometimes constructed on the basis of rights, where landowners can continue to use the land under the bridge.

Land acquisition or rights over land?

A test that is normally applied in deciding whether to seek land acquisition or simply rights, is whether the proposed works on the parcel of land in question ‘would permanently deprive the landowner of the use of his or her land’. If it would permanently deprive the landowner of the land, then the acquiring authority should acquire the land, rather than simply acquiring a right.

Interestingly, CPOs can be made for the acquisition of minerals under the land. We are seeing more instances of this and it is something to be wary of; if relevant provisions are included in the CPO, it means that the acquiring authority will not need to pay compensation if they take the minerals from under the land when the CPO is confirmed. However it is possible for the mineral owner to obtain compensation if it wishes to extract the minerals at a future date.

Compensation

There are strict procedures set out in the statute to adhere to when making a CPO, including the provision of compensation. Unfortunately as the name suggests it may be impossible to avoid your land being compulsorily purchased, but you can appeal/ object to a notice if you do so in good time. If you can’t avoid your land being taken, you can minimise the affects by ensuring you can maximise the amount of compensation you may be able to claim. This however requires forethought, planning and good advice; it can be used as an opportunity to review business structures, for succession and tax planning as well as maximising potential compensation. Land needs to be held in the right hands to achieve the best level of compensation.

Given that CPOs generally tend to blight rural areas of land, Ashtons expert Agriculture & Estates Team can offer bespoke advice and review to rural landowners, tenants and agricultural occupiers and others with interests in rural land and property, on possible restructuring of land holdings and business structures. We are members of the Compulsory Purchase Association and we can bring together our many specialist solicitors to create a specialist team to assist you, including input from the following expert teams:

For an initial consultation with experienced compulsory purchase solicitors, please contact Joanne Briscoe or Nigel Maguire.