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Compulsory purchase review to ensure laws are fit for future development projects

Law Commission

3 min read Partner content
  • Law Commission to consider how outdated compulsory purchase laws can be modernised.
  • Government-backed review of technical laws to examine land acquisition and compensation.

The Law Commission of England and Wales has announced that it will begin a review of the legislation governing compulsory purchase, in order to make the law simpler, consistent and more accessible.

Compulsory purchase – the legal mechanism by which public bodies can acquire land without the consent of the owner – is essential to the implementation of largescale projects to improve local and national infrastructure.

The same powers are also used to secure land for new housing developments, for community facilities, and for environmental purposes – including projects designed to help the Government meet its climate ambitions.

The Law Commission has been asked by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to review the current law on compulsory purchase, to ensure that it supports the critical infrastructure needs of today and delivers for local communities.

The Commission’s review follows concerns that the law of compulsory purchase in England and Wales is fragmented, hard to access and in need of modernisation. The review also follows the Government’s commitment in its 2022 White Paper, “Levelling Up the United Kingdom” to enhance compulsory purchase powers.

In the new review, the Law Commission will examine the technical laws concerning:

  • The procedures governing the acquisition of land through compulsory purchase orders.
  • The system for assessing the compensation awarded to parties in relation to such acquisitions.

Commenting on the review, Nicholas Paines KC, Public Law Commissioner, said:

“Compulsory purchase orders are essential to delivering large-scale projects – from critical infrastructure, to housing developments and environmental plans.

“It is important that the legislative regime is effective, consistent, and clear to both landowners and acquiring authorities – but the current laws are fragmented and complex, often leading to uncertainty and unpredictability.

“I am therefore pleased that the Law Commission is undertaking this review. Our project will help to ensure that the law governing compulsory purchase is modernised and simplified – so that it can better support future projects at a local and national level.

Levelling Up Minister 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.”

Next Steps

Preliminary research on this review will begin in early 2023. This research will include a review of the 2003 and 2004 Law Commission reports on compulsory purchase, as well as pre-consultation engagement with stakeholders and analysis of the current law.

Visit the project page for further information.

Background

The Law Commission previously reviewed compulsory purchase in the early 2000s. The project, Towards a Compulsory Purchase Code, resulted in the publication of two reports in 2003 and 2004, dealing with compensation and procedure respectively. While these reports were favourably received, they were not implemented in full and, since then, only incremental changes to the law have been made.

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