Compulsory purchase order process

After a public authority makes a compulsory purchase order and it is confirmed, the owner has no choice whether to sell, but receives compensation.

This content applies to England

Who can make a CPO

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

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

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

Examples of circumstances a CPO can be used for include:

  • major building projects, for example airport expansions, housing developments or flood defence works

  • improving or installing services, for example electric pylons, water mains or road or rail improvement

  • clearing areas of bad housing

Further information on CPOs is available from MHCLG: Compulsory purchase system guidance.

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

Consequences of CPO

The owner has no choice about selling if a CPO is confirmed. They are paid for the land.

If a landowner lodges an objection to a CPO, it is not confirmed until the objection has been considered at a public inquiry.

Steps to making a compulsory purchase order

When the authority has a scheme that requires it to acquire other people's land, it can resolve to make a CPO.

When it has enough information, the acquiring authority will prepare the CPO, and usually an accompanying statement of reasons, in accordance with section 2 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981.

Requisition for information form

As part of preparing for a CPO, the acquiring authority may send a 'Requisition for information form' to owners or occupiers of relevant properties.

Failure to provide information, or making false or reckless statements, is a criminal offence. Ignoring the form does not stop the process.

Right to enter land

An acquiring authority which is considering using its compulsory purchase powers may need to enter the land to survey and value it before it decides to make a CPO.

With effect from 13 July 2016, a general power of entry for survey and valuation purposes is available to all acquiring authorities in connection with a proposal to acquire land using its compulsory purchase powers.[2]

Publicising the CPO

Sections 11 and 12 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 stipulates that the acquiring authority must publicise the proposed CPO as follows:

  • publication of a notice for two successive weeks in one or more local newspapers

  • notices on or near the land affected

  • individual notices to any qualifying person

A qualified person includes every owner, leaseholder, tenant and occupier of any land in the CPO, and any other person who may have the right to claim compensation, because they own rights in the land being acquired and these will be interfered with, or the value of their land will or may be reduced even if their land will not be acquired.

The notices are very similar, and each must:

  • state that a CPO is about to be sent to a government minister for confirmation

  • specify a time of at least 21 days within which objections to the CPO can be made

  • specify the manner in which objections may be made

  • say where the CPO and map may be inspected

The CPO paperwork is sent to a government minister (the 'confirming authority') or (for applications made on or after 6 April 2018) to an inspector who has been appointed by the confirming authority in accordance with sections 13-15 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981.

If no objections are made and the minister is satisfied that proper notices have been given, they confirm, modify or reject the CPO.

There is a public inquiry if objections are made.

For CPOs submitted on or after 6 April 2018, the government minister must publish a timetable in relation to the steps to be taken when confirming a compulsory purchase order.[3]

Further information on the compulsory purchase process, including the requirement to publish a timetable in relation to confirming a CPO, is available from MHCLG: Compulsory purchase process and the Crichel Down Rules.

Notices after CPO is confirmed

After the CPO is confirmed, the acquiring authority must provide a copy of the order to each qualifying person. It must also fix a confirmation notice in a prescribed form to a 'conspicuous object or objects' on or near the land in question, addressed to anyone with an interest in the land. Confirmation notices must also be published in the local newspapers, usually within six weeks of confirmation of the order.

A confirmation notice must explain that an objector may apply to the High Court to question the validity of the CPO.[4]

Implementing the CPO

Once a CPO has been confirmed, the acquiring authority can implement the CPO by:

  • agreement

  • a notice to treat and notice of entry[5] – the notice to treat gives the owner or occupier of the land the opportunity to claim compensation

  • a general vesting declaration (GVD),[6] by which ownership of the land is transferred to the acquiring authority; compensation is then dealt with later

  • taking control of tenancies, for example by serving a notice to quit where the tenancy permits it, or by using the notice to treat or notice of entry procedures

  • taking action following a blight notice,[7] which is a notice served by the landowner where they want the acquiring authority to get on with the process

If the owner or occupier fails to make a claim, there may be costs penalties if the case goes to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber). The notice of entry gives notice of the time when the acquiring authority can take possession of the land.

The acquiring authority, as a public authority, must act fairly and reasonably in implementing the CPO.[8]

There is a three year time limit for exercising CPO powers once a CPO has been confirmed, which can be extended if there is a challenge to the validity of the CPO.[9]

Mitigation works

These are works carried out by the acquiring authority or paid for by the acquiring authority to reduce the impact of development on homes which are not covered by the CPO but are sufficiently close to be affected by the development.

Soundproofing

Soundproofing must be offered to homeowners affected by new roads, railways or airports. There are qualifying criteria for the noise effect on the home.

Homeowners should ask the acquiring authority for details. It may be willing to offer soundproofing even where the criteria are not fulfilled.

Soundproofing is to a statutory quality, but if this is insufficient it is possible to ask for a grant to be paid instead and to be used towards a higher level of soundproofing.

Other mitigating works and actions

The acquiring authority may offer other mitigating works. Often this is done as part of an agreement to withdraw objections or simply to make the CPO proposal more reasonable.

Mitigating works can include:

  • acquiring land that will be affected by the development, but which is beyond the necessary CPO area

  • planting trees or shrubs

  • landscaping

  • payments for temporary relocation while works are carried out

An owner or occupier should get advice from a solicitor or surveyor to ensure that any agreement, offer or concession made by the acquiring authority is properly recorded and is legally enforceable, before taking any step in reliance on it.

Right to compensation

The right to compensation and how the amount of compensation is calculated are derived from a combination of statute, case law and established practice. This is sometimes referred to as the 'Compensation Code'. The principal statutes are the Land Compensation Acts of 1961 and 1973 and the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965. There is a right to compensation for situations both where land is taken, or only nearby land is taken.

The conditions for making a home loss payment are contained in the Land Compensation Act 1973.[10] Regulations impose minimum and maximum amounts for home loss payments.[11]

The general principle is that owners and occupiers of land should be financially no worse off (and no better off) after the compulsory purchase order (CPO) than before.

Mitigating the loss

The owner or occupier is expected to 'mitigate' the loss, which means taking reasonable steps to reduce the loss.[12] For example, when arranging removals, it is advisable to get three quotes to check that the cost is reasonable.

Preparing a compensation claim

A claim for compensation must be detailed and properly evidenced.

A surveyor can help prepare the claim. The fees should be recoverable as a part of the claim. Contact the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) compulsory purchase helpline for details.

A claim for compensation may be submitted as soon as the claimant has been notified that their property may be affected by compulsory purchase. it is not necessary for the acquiring authority to have taken possession.

The model claim form, along with guidance notes, sets out all of the information which the claimant must provide. Owners should keep a record of any losses, including quotes, estimates and receipts which can be included in the claim. An inadequately completed claim may lead to costs being awarded against the claimant.

Subject to receiving a valid claim for an advance payment, the acquiring authority must make an advance payment of 90 per cent of the:[13]

  • amount of compensation that has been agreed, or

  • acquiring authority's estimate of the compensation due

If the authority does not have enough information to make the payment it must ask the claimant to provide additional information within 28 days of receiving their request.

Some or all of any compensation paid in advance will be repayable if the final amount of compensation agreed is less than the amount paid, or if the acquiring authority does not proceed to taking possession.

Disputing a claim

Disputed claims for compensation, including disputes about the award of costs, may be determined by the Upper Tribunal.[14]

Limitation on claiming

It has been held that an application to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) for the assessment of compensation resulting from a CPO is an 'action for sum recoverable by statute', and is subject to the time limit of six years under section 9 Limitation Act 1980.[15]

The time limit may start after land was compulsorily purchased, ie where the associated works did not cause something to actually affect the claimant's land straight away, such as a delayed interference with quiet enjoyment. [16]

Compensation where all or part of the land is taken

A claim for compensation can include the following:

  • value of the land acquired

  • severance and injurious affection which means the depreciation in the value of retained land where only part of the land is acquired

  • home loss payment – homeowners and tenants can claim an additional sum in compensation for losing their home

  • disturbance which is usually only available to occupiers of the land, and covers removal costs and other costs of moving

  • fees – including reasonable surveyors fees for preparing and negotiating a compensation settlement, together with solicitors fees for any conveyancing

Joint owners and joint tenants will have home loss payment money split equally between them. The payment is only made to people who have lived in the home for the last 12 months.

Disturbance can include, for example:

  • removal expenses

  • legal fees, stamp duty, survey fees and mortgage fees for buying a new home

  • special adaptations for the new home

  • altering soft furnishings and moveable fittings and fixtures to fit the new home

  • disconnection and reconnection charges for services

  • forwarding of post

If a tenant has to leave rented accommodation as a result of a CPO the acquiring authority may agree to pay the reasonable expenses (other than the purchase price of the property) of buying a comparable home, provided it is bought within a year.

Compensation where nearby land is taken

A claim for compensation can include the following:

  • reduction in value caused by the execution of public works – this can be claimed under section 10 of the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 where a property right is temporarily lost as a result of the works, for example a right of way

  • fees – including reasonable surveyors fees for preparing and negotiating a compensation settlement

  • reduction in value caused by the use of public works – this provides compensation for loss of property value due to noise,[17] vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, artificial light, solid or liquid waste

Compensation for reduction in value can only be claimed by owner occupiers under Part 1 of the Land Compensation Act 1973, but occupiers of moveable homes (mobile homes and houseboats) may qualify for payment in respect of noise from a public highway.

Objections before a CPO is made

At this stage, there is no specific legal process to stop the authority resolving to make a CPO. If there is difficulty working out which is the ‘acquiring authority’, or whether a CPO has been made, inquiries can be made of the local authority planning, legal and estates departments.

Political pressure may cause the proposed development to be modified, delayed or even stopped. Concerned people can write to a local newspaper, contact councillors or the local MP, attend council meetings, join or start a pressure group, and contribute to the consultation process, if there is one.

Local authorities are legally obliged to give advanced public notice of important decisions they intend to make.

Objecting to a CPO

Objections to CPOs must be in writing, but there is no specific form. An objection can be made by a qualifying person or their professional adviser.

A qualifying person is either:[18]

  • an owner, leaseholder, tenant or occupier of any land in the CPO

  • any other person who may have the right to claim compensation if the CPO is made (sometimes called a ‘statutory objector’)

The CPO notice sent out by the acquiring authority will state who the objection should be sent to, and the time limit.

Valid and invalid objections

The government minister who is the confirming authority is entitled to disregard objections about the following:[19]

  • the amount of compensation

  • where the acquiring authority wants part of the property and the owner wants to sell all of it

  • where the objection amounts to an objection to local planning policy

Valid objections which cannot be disregarded are usually those where the objector:

  • agrees with the scheme but wants minor amendments to minimise the impact

  • agrees with the purpose of the scheme but wants it located elsewhere

  • rejects the scheme completely, but not because of objections to local planning policy

It can be difficult to understand what objections are valid. Objectors can get advice from a specialist solicitor or surveyor (usually this will need to be paid for) or by a free adviser – contact Environmental Law Foundation.

A valid objection made by a statutory objector will lead to an inquiry.

How objections are dealt with

If there are objections, there is a difference between an objection made within the stipulated period by a qualifying person and an objection by anyone else.

The objections are considered by the minister, who may disregard invalid objections. If there remain one or more objections from qualifying persons that have not been disregarded or withdrawn, then the minister must arrange a public inquiry (unless all the remaining objectors agree that the remaining objections can be dealt with in writing).

How to object

Objecting to a CPO will often lead to an inquiry, which may delay the development and, if the objectors have good arguments, the inquiry may lead to the CPO being modified or even rejected. Objectors should also consider negotiations or simply relying on the right to compensation.

Many legal challenges under section 23 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 fail, and they have complicated procedures run to tight deadlines. Objectors should always get advice from a solicitor or law centre before starting a legal challenge. Objectors should also remember that the usual rule in court cases is for the loser to pay the winner’s legal costs, which could be thousands of pounds.

Negotiations

A property owner may negotiate a sale to the acquiring authority at any time, even after a CPO has been made. The acquiring authority will often prefer a negotiated sale, because it may avoid the cost and time spent on getting a CPO confirmed, and may avoid the political controversy that CPOs can sometimes generate. The owner may prefer to negotiate a sale, because then s/he may be able to get a better price and more certainty.

Negotiations will not necessarily lead to the objector having to move away permanently. For example, shopkeepers whose shops are being demolished for redevelopment may be able to get shops in the new development. (This is less common for residential tenants – see Access for landlord to carry out repairs.)

Also, an objector to a CPO may agree to withdraw the objection if the acquiring authority makes concessions or gives undertakings. The objector should get advice from a solicitor or surveyor to ensure that any agreement or concession made by the acquiring authority is properly recorded and is legally enforceable, before the objection is withdrawn.

Last updated: 14 September 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

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

  • [2]

    ss.172-179 Housing and Planning Act 2016; reg 3 Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Commencement No.2, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Regulations 2016 SI 2016/733; s.11(3) Compulsory Purchase Act 1965.

  • [3]

    s.14B Acquisition of Land Act 1981.

  • [4]

    s.15 Acquisition of Land Act 1981.

  • [5]

    s.5 Compulsory Purchase Act 1965.

  • [6]

    s.4 Compulsory Purchase (Vesting Declaration) Act 1981.

  • [7]

    Ch.2, Part 6 Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

  • [8]

    Norris v First Secretary of State [2006] EWCA Civ 12.

  • [9]

    s.4 Compulsory Purchase Act 1965.

  • [10]

    s.29(1) Land Compensation Act 1973

  • [11]

    from 1 October 2021 amounts are set by The Home Loss Payments (Prescribed Amounts) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/841; before 1 October The Home Loss Payments (Prescribed Amounts) (England) Regulations 2019.

  • [12]

    Glasspool v Southwark LBC [2017] UKUT 373 (LC).

  • [13]

    ss.52-52B Land Compensation Act 1973 as amended.

  • [14]

    s.1 Land Compensation Act 1961 substituted by Transfer of Tribunal Functions (Lands Tribunal and Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2009 SI 2009/1307

  • [15]

    Hillingdon LBC v ARC Ltd [2000] EWCA Civ 191; Saunders v Caerphilly CBC [2015] EWHC 1632 (ch).

  • [16]

    Bourne Leisure (Hopton) Ltd v Great Yarmouth Port Authority [2016] UKUT 44 (LC).

  • [17]

    See for example, Goodman and others v Transport for London [2016] UKUT 126 (LC).

  • [18]

    s.12 Acquisition of Land Act 1981.

  • [19]

    s.11(4) Compulsory Purchase Act 1965.