Ministers to rethink delegation to inspectors of compulsory purchase decisions

The government has promised to reconsider the criteria that will define which compulsory purchase order decisions can be delegated to an inspector, as part of its response to feedback on its proposals to change the rules governing forced acquisition of land by the public sector.

Clays Lane: compulsory purchase powers were used to assemble land for the Olympic Park in east London (picture by diamondgeezer, Flickr)
Clays Lane: compulsory purchase powers were used to assemble land for the Olympic Park in east London (picture by diamondgeezer, Flickr)

Ministers consulted earlier this year on proposed reforms to the system. Among their planned changes, they proposed the delegation of less controversial cases to inspectors, suggesting that such cases would be defined as being those that do not raise issues of more than local importance.

However, the government’s response to consultees’ feedback, published at the end of last week, acknowledges that "the majority of respondents commented that it would be difficult to draw a distinction between local and otherwise". Hence it says that ministers will "consider further what criteria would be appropriate".

Elsewhere, the government response says that newly revised compulsory purchase guidance – also published last week - will encourage acquiring authorities to consider giving owners and occupiers longer than the new minimum 14 day notice of entry to their property that is being introduced to allow surveys to be undertaken.

The response also makes it clear that the government will follow through with the bulk of the changes proposed in the initial consultation, including:

-    encouraging local authorities to make "reasonable initial offers" to landowners whose property they wish to acquire.

-    introducing a fixed timetable for some decision-making, including statutory targets for confirmation of the cpo process and statutory requirements for each secretary of state with cpo confirmation powers to report annually to Parliament on performance in meeting the targets.

-    Measures to give property owners greater certainty as to when the acquiring authority will enter the land to take possession of it.

Many of the measures confirmed in the response require primary legislation and were included in the Housing and Planning Bill.

The government’s response also confirms that it will bring forward further proposals to change the compulsory purchase system, as promised in the chancellor’s Productivity Plan, "in the autumn".

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