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Public inquiries for compulsory purchase order objections

This content applies to England & Wales

Procedure for inquiries over objections to CPOs.

A public inquiry is a formal process, with complicated rules and procedures. An inspector conducts the inquiry on behalf of the government minister.

Representation

While objectors are allowed to represent themselves, it is strongly advised that they obtain legal advice and representation. It may also be necessary to get expert witnesses. For people on low incomes, legal aid may be available for advice and preparation, but not for representation. Objectors who cannot afford their own representation (or who cannot get legal aid for advice and preparation) should consider:

  • a group of objectors paying for representation together, perhaps through a residents’ association 
  • working with an environmental pressure group, which may have its own legal team or the ability to afford lawyers
  • free advice or representation may be available from other sources, for example Environmental Law Foundation or Friends of the Earth's Rights & Justice Centre 
  • sending written representations to the inquiry, instead of appearing in person. If all statutory objectors agree, the inspector may deal with the objections in writing only.

Inquiry procedure

The procedure for an inquiry is similar in some ways to a court case. The usual procedure is as follows:[1]

  • the inspector informs remaining objectors and acquiring authority that there will be an inquiry
  • pre-inquiry meeting to discuss how the inquiry will be run
  • outline statements by remaining objectors (if required by inspector)
  • statements of case by acquiring authority and by remaining objectors
  • public notice of inquiry
  • the inspector can visit the site, and can appoint an assessor to advise on technical issues
  • inquiry hearing.  

Usually the acquiring authority puts its case first, then the remaining objectors put their cases, then the acquiring authority replies. When putting their case, any party may call witnesses to give evidence and/or produce documentary evidence.

At the end of the inquiry, the inspector makes a recommendation to the government minister. The minister will then confirm, modify or reject the CPO. The minister may confirm the CPO immediately in respect of part of the land affected, and postpone consideration of the rest of the land until certain conditions have been fulfilled.[2] See Making a CPO for details.

[1] Compulsory Purchase (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 2007 SI 2007/3617 as amended by the Compulsory Purchase (Inquiries Procedure) (Miscellaneous Amendments and Electronic Communications) Rules 2018 SI 2018/248.

[2] s.13C Acquisition of Land Act 1981, inserted by Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, and considered in R (on the application of Neptune Wharf) v Secretary of State [2007] EWHC 1036 (Admin).

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