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Rules for compulsory purchase orders

This content applies to England & Wales

Compulsory purchase is the process by which a public authority can compulsorily take land from the owner, when it is necessary for some public purpose, such as building a new road. 

A compulsory purchase order (CPO) detailing the precise scope of the prospective purchase is made under statutory powers.

Who can make a CPO

A public authority for the purpose of compulsory purchase can include a company with public duties, such as an electricity or water company.

CPOs can be used, for example, for:

  • major building projects, for example airport expansions, housing developments or flood defence works
  • improving or installing services, eg electric pylons, water mains or road or rail improvements
  • clearing areas of bad housing.

What can be covered by a CPO

Land, in the context of compulsory purchase, may include houses or any other buildings as well as the land itself.

Consequences of CPO

If a CPO is confirmed, the owner has no choice whether to sell, but is paid for the land. However, if a landowner lodges an objection to a CPO,it will not be confirmed until the objection has been considered at a public inquiry.

Statutory powers to make a compulsory purchase

The power to acquire land compulsorily can be found in a number of different statutes.[1] When such a power exists, CPOs are made in accordance with the procedures contained in:

  • Compulsory Purchase Act 1965
  • Acquisition of Land Act 1981, and
  • Housing and Planning Act 2016.

Additional information

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has published a collection of booklets to explain how the compulsory purchase system works.

[1] see for example, s.226 Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as amended; Transport and Works Act 1992; Crossrail Act 2008.

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