Legal Guide

The Compulsory Purchase Order Process (CPO)

What Is a Compulsory Purchase Order?

For those of you who aren’t aware, a compulsory purchase order (CPO) is a legal process that allows certain public bodies to force homeowners to sell their property if the property is on land required for a regeneration project, or it is deemed to be in the “greater public good”. This often includes projects like the construction of new roads, stadiums or railways. CPOs can be issued by local authorities, regional development agencies, highways authorities, English Partnerships, and in Greater London, English Heritage. A recent example of this can be found in the news of the HS2 project plans. The new railway has paved way for many CPO’s to be filed, causing mass HS2 compensation legal claims across the country.

The Process

The process itself is made of several different stages that must be completed before the next. With that being said, it is only when the CPO has been officially confirmed by the governing authority - usually the Secretary of State - that the acquiring authority has the power to compulsorily purchase a particular property. In total, the process itself leading up to confirmation (below stage 5) can take up to a year and a half. Below we have outlined each of the stages running up until an official public inquiry.

Stage 1 – The Formulation

Whoever the acquiring party is, they must decide that the land is required for a specific purpose or proposed scheme and that they are willing to go through the CPO avenue in order to facilitate their aim. Following this, information is gathered, plans are draw up and boundaries are defined. At the point, the formulation is practically an information gathering exercise but this is a necessary stage. It also during this time that acquiring parties may enter in to preliminary negotiations with land owners. A compulsory purchase order is a last resort so the acquiring party must demonstrate that they have exhausted all other avenues to purchase the property or land.

Stage 2 – Resolution

Next, the formal resolution is made to use compulsory purchase owners. If the CPO is to be addressed from a local council, their executive or committee will consider the recommendation to use CPO powers and then they will ultimately grant the permission to use these powers.

Stage 3 – Referencing

Stage 3 is very much a development on stage 1. At this point, it is more information building, with parties gathering documents, recording ownership and occupational details of the land so they can identify all of those who have a legal interest or right to occupy the required land.

Stage 4 – The Order Is Made

After all the above is complete, the buying authority will file the CPO. The main body of the order will contain details of the act authorising the purchase and the reasoning as to why the CPO is being served. During this time, a statement of reasons will need to be given. This statement will demonstrate that the future scheme is being carried out for the good of the public, offering improvements to the area from an economic and environmental viewpoint.

After this, notices will then be given directly to owners as well as any party who may have the right to claim compensation as their land or property may be affected by the proposed build. The notices will provide details on the period when objections to the plans can be made – typically this is at least 21 days but it can be extended to 28 from the date the notice is published. Just one single objection will cause a public inquiry to be triggered.

Stage 5 – The Public Inquiry

If the objections given are reasonable and valid, a public local inquiry must be carried out and heard by a planning inspector. This must be done no later than 6 weeks after the date that the acquiring party give their statement of case to the minister and every one of the remaining objecting parties. This sets out the case to be put forward at the inquiry and justifies the reasons for making the CPO. Copies of all documents referred to in the Statement of Case must be attached, together with a list of any documents which the council intends to refer at the inquiry.

Stage 6 – The Post Inquiry

After the inquiry comes to a close, the inspector must draw up a concluding report that is then considered by the secretary of state or confirming minister. Within the report, it should outline any recommendations regarding the CPO. The state will then decide on the order and confirm or rejected the proposed order. If in the end, it is confirmed then CPO powers will be granted to the acquiring party who then have a 3 year window to execute each order to the owners affected.

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