Policy Summary: Legislation seeks to clarify compulsory purchase process and responsibilities

Policy Housing and Planning Bill Part 7: Compulsory Purchase

Manchester: testing purchase powers
Manchester: testing purchase powers

Issued by: Department for Communities and Local Government

Issue date: 13 October 2015

Background: The bill, which was introduced in the Commons on 13 October, makes a number of changes to the compulsory purchase order (CPO) regime. Key points for planners are in clauses 118 to 122 and 129 to 133.

Key points: The bill amends the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 to oblige the communities secretary to publish timetables and deadlines for the steps taken by councils to confirm a CPO and to report to Parliament on authorities' progress against these. It also allows local authorities to commission an inspector to act on their behalf in confirming an order, rather than making the decision themselves.

Clarifying case law, the bill sets three-year deadlines for serving "notices to treat", which seek agreement on a price for a property, and making "general vesting declarations" (GVDs), under which councils take ownership. Both begin the day the CPO becomes operative.

The bill removes the requirement to issue a preliminary notice of intention before making a GVD, replacing it with the stipulation that authorities must include an explanatory statement and compensation claim form in the confirmation notice. Meanwhile, the minimum notice period given to landowners before land passes to the authority is increased from 28 days to three months.

Clause 129 amends the Land Compensation Act 1961 by allowing the secretary of state to produce regulations defining how claimants must make their compensation bids, and requiring acquiring authorities to distribute a standard form. Other clauses enable the secretary of state to issue regulations specifying the information that claimants must provide to claim an advance payment - a sum paid before the land changes hands, enabling landowners to fund the search for alternative properties - and set a 28-day time limit for authorities to request any additional data.

Authorities will have a two-month period to make advance payments, starting as soon as they receive the information they need or finalise the CPO, whichever is the later. Late payments will accrue interest at a rate set by the Treasury.

The bill was published two weeks before the government's response to feedback on its consultation on compulsory purchase changes. Newly revised compulsory purchase guidance was also issued last week.

However, the government may not have finished tinkering with CPOs. Following consultation on this set of changes, its July productivity plan Fixing the Foundations announced that it is considering the case for more compulsory purchase reforms and will bring forward proposals in the autumn.

Things are already moving in Manchester, for instance. The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill provides for the future mayor of Greater Manchester to exercise compulsory purchase powers, provided the cabinet member from the relevant borough agrees.

The bill can be read here. 

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