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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

Law Commission to review compulsory purchase legislation

Law Commission to review compulsory purchase legislation


Inquiry to assess how compulsory purchase laws can be modernised

The Law Commission of England and Wales announced on 6 February the launch of a new government-backed review of the legislation governing compulsory purchase, with a view to making the law “simpler, consistent and more accessible.”

The UK government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has directed the Law Commission to examine the applicable law on compulsory purchase, more specifically the procedures governing the acquisition of land through compulsory purchase orders and the system for assessing the compensation awarded to parties, in order to ensure that the legal framework supports the country’s current infrastructure needs.

Compulsory purchase is a legal mechanism according to which public bodies can acquire land without the consent of the owner, where such land is essential for the implementation of local and national infrastructure projects.

According to the Law Commission’s press release, the inquiry has been instigated by concerns that the current law on compulsory purchase is “fragmentary, hard to access and in need of modernisation.” The review is also part of the government’s commitment to enhancing compulsory purchase powers set out in its 2022 White Paper, entitled ‘Levelling Up the United Kingdom.’

At the time, the Law Society criticised the government’s proposals set out in a consultation paper published on 6 June 2022, concerning compensation reforms associated with compulsory purchase orders. In its response, the Law Society stated, “We have concerns as to whether the compulsory purchase order proposals are justifiable, equitable and compatible with human rights (Article 1 of the First Protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights and, if it is a dwelling, Article 8) when balancing the public interest against individual rights, as failing to recognise the hope value attached to a property will result in properties acquired for existing use, which will be less than market value.”

Commenting on the announcement of the Law Commission’s inquiry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Dehenna Davison, said “Giving councils the right tools to drive forward regeneration across our towns and cities and deliver much-needed new homes is essential to our levelling up mission. I am very pleased the Law Commission will review compulsory purchase law to make sure current rules are fit for purpose and councils have greater confidence on when and how they can use these powers. The measures we are taking forward through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill will also improve the process and help ensure that fair compensation is paid.”

The review will begin by assessing the Law Commission reports from 2003 and 20224 on compulsory purchase, and will involve the launch of a pre-consultation and analysis of the current law.

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