Written by Jake Rostron & Helen Hutton
It was announced on 6 February 2023, that the Law Commission, the body responsible for reviewing existing law and suggesting reform, will undertake a review of the existing laws surrounding compulsory purchase powers and compensation.
The Department for Levelling up Housing and Communities has asked the Law Commission to review the current law on compulsory purchase, in light of a renewed focus on critical infrastructure projects required across local communities in England and Wales. It follows concerns that the law of compulsory purchase 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.
On its website page advertising the proposed review, the Law Commission states that it will examine the procedures governing the acquisition of land through compulsory purchase orders and the system for assessing compensation awarded to parties in relation to such acquisitions.
In his statement on the proposed review, Nicholas Paines KC, the Public Law Commissioner highlighted the need for the legislative regime around compulsory acquisition to be “effective, consistent and clear to both landowners and acquiring authorities – but the current laws are fragmented and complex, often leading to uncertainty and unpredictability.”
The initial statement by the Law Commission indicates that such reform will be to ensure that local authorities find their powers easier and more efficient to manage.
Whilst the Law Commission previously reviewed compulsory purchase in the early 2000s, those reviews were not implemented in full and since then, only partial changes to the law have been made. There are some changes to compulsory purchase rules currently being considered by the House of Lords in the version of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill now in the Lords, but the proposed changes would appear to go further than the suggested reforms, which are now in the Bill.
The Law Commission has stated that preliminary research on the review will being within the early part of 2023 and will include a pre-consultation engagement with stakeholders. It is anticipated that a consultation will follow shortly thereafter.
The relevant part of the Law Commission’s website can be found here.