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Judicial review of compulsory purchase order decisions

This content applies to England & Wales

Procedure for judicial review of CPO decisions.

Legal challenges generally

After a CPO has been made and confirmed, a legal challenge can be made within six weeks in the High Court, on the grounds that:[1]

  • the powers invoked are ultra vires (ie not within the powers of the authority to make the CPO)
  • the procedural rules have not been followed correctly
  • the minister or the inspector has not acted properly in reaching a decision, eg there was no evidence to support the decision, or irrelevant factors were taken into account.

If the challenge is successful, the court may overturn the CPO or any part of it.[2] If the challenge is unsuccessful, the CPO remains effective.

In rare cases, there may be other opportunities to raise legal challenges to a CPO or the associated development, relying on land law, planning law or human rights law. Advice can be obtained from a solicitor, law centre or Citizens Advice.

Human rights arguments in judicial review cases

Human rights arguments are often raised in judicial review cases about CPOs. Typically cases involve the following:

  • Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which requires respect for private and family life and home, and which may apply where a CPO relates to a home
  • Article 1 of the First Protocol to the ECHR, which protects possessions, including land, and may apply where a landowner challenges a CPO.[3]

A CPO may only interfere with these rights if the CPO is proportionate. A CPO is proportionate where it is in the public interest and is reasonably necessary. It does not have to be the only way of achieving the outcome sought by the acquiring authority, or the way that causes residents or landowners the least suffering or inconvenience.[4]

This is important, because it means that objectors are unlikely to overturn a CPO on the ground that they can find another way of achieving the outcome. The following arguments have failed:

  • the objectors could themselves develop the land[5]
  • the objectors should not be required to leave until somewhere is found for them to go to[6]
  • there were alternatives that were neither obvious nor raised by the objectors.[7]

Further there is no requirement that an authority must consider obtaining an empty dwelling management order (under Ch.2, Part 4 of the Housing Act 2004) before getting a CPO.[8]

Other human rights arguments might be raised, for example Article 6 to the ECHR (the right to a fair trial) applies to the inquiry process. Often the Government provides funding for regeneration projects, but the existence of such funding does not mean that the minister is not able to provide a fair hearing.[9]

[1] s.23 Acquisition of Land Act 1981.

[2] s.24 Acquisition of Land Act 1981, as amended by s.201 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[3] Sch 1, Human Rights Act 1998.

[4] Smith v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry [2007] EWHC 1013 (Admin), which explores previous authorities, including Pascoe v First Secretary of State [2006] EWHC 2356 (Admin).

[5] Belfields and Nextdom v Secretary of State for CLG [2007] EWHC 3040 (Admin).

[6] Smith v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry [2007] EWHC 1013 (Admin).

[7] Hall v First Secretary of State and Hillingdon LBC [2007] EWCA Civ 612.

[8] Braithwaite v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Enfield LBC (interested party) [2012] EWHC 2835 (Admin).

[9] R (on the application of Powell) v Secretary of State for CLG [2007] EWHC 2051 (Admin), Belfields and Nextdom v Secretary of State for CLG [2007] EWHC 3040 (Admin).

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