• Compulsory purchase powers are used by a variety of public authorities to acquire land which is required for the delivery of projects deemed to be in the public interest. This can include improvements to the highway network, the construction of new railway lines, or the provision of new infrastructure required by utilities operators.

    Many of these projects require the use of agricultural land, for example HS1 which was built through Kent in the early 2000s and involved the acquisition of hundreds of acres of farmland, meaning that rural landowners are among the most affected groups. Promoters of schemes which require the use of CPO powers need to be able to demonstrate that there is a “compelling case in the public interest” for the CPO to be made.

    What can I do about a CPO?

    So, how do you know whether a CPO is going to affect your land, what can you do about it and, if it goes ahead, what level of compensation can you expect to receive?

    In most cases, the underlying project will require planning permission from either the local council or central government through a development consent order. There will usually be a period of public consultation which should include affected landowners. If you become aware of a project, you should carefully examine the proposal and respond to the consultation. It may be possible to influence the plans to minimise the impact on your land. At this stage, it is essential to obtain legal advice, particularly if you are keen to resist the making of the order.

    You also have the right to object to the making of a CPO affecting your land and, in some cases, it may fail to pass the ‘public interest’ test, meaning that the CPO is not confirmed.

    Getting the right support

    If the CPO is confirmed, then the acquiring authority will need to engage with you directly. This will usually take the form of a letter requesting details of land ownership and other interests which may need to be acquired or bought out. They should seek to acquire the land by agreement before falling back on the CPO powers. Specialist surveyors are usually employed to carry out the negotiations on your behalf. It is usual for your legal and other professional costs to be met by the acquiring authority for this stage.

    Where agreement cannot be reached, the acquiring authority will be able to rely upon its powers in the order to compulsorily acquire the land. However, the CPO should be checked carefully by your lawyers to check that there is not some defect in the order or the procedures which mean that it cannot be relied upon.

    Will I be compensated?

    Where land is acquired through the CPO or under threat of compulsion, then there are rules which determine how much compensation you are entitled to. The general rule is that you should receive an amount to represent your loss. This will include an element for the market value of the interest in the land taken. Other grounds for compensation may include disturbance and loss payments to cover losses other than market value. You may also be entitled to compensation for ‘severance and injurious affection’, these are payments for the loss of value caused to any retained land.

    Again, it is crucial to obtain professional legal and valuation advice to ensure that you are adequately compensated.

    This article was first published in the August 2023 edition of South East Farmer.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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