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Been handed a compulsory purchase order? What are your options?

If you’ve been handed a compulsory purchase order (CPO) you are no doubt worried about the future of your property.

You might even be considering action to prevent it from being sold to the council and used for development.

This became a far more common concern – especially near our offices in Warwickshire – during the planning of HS2.

The Government, through local councils, began issuing CPOs to residents to build the high-speed railway between the West Midlands and London.

However, it remains a pressing concern for homeowners and CPOs can still be used by local authorities to support ongoing residential or commercial development projects in their area, where there is a clear public interest.

What is a CPO?

A CPO is a legal function that allows certain bodies, primarily Governmental or local authorities, to acquire land or property without the consent of the owner.

Authorities use this power to carry out public projects that require land or property deemed necessary for works that benefit the public, such as infrastructure projects, urban regeneration, and development of public amenities.

The process starts with the authority identifying the need for the land or property as part of a public project.

The authority then issues a CPO against the property, which must be approved by a relevant Government department.
Owners of the property are entitled to object to the CPO, and their objections are considered during a public inquiry led by an independent inspector.

If the Government confirms the CPO, the authority can take ownership of the land or property, although the former owner is entitled to compensation.

This compensation aims to put the owner in the same financial position as if the property had not been compulsorily purchased, covering the market value of the property and any additional costs or losses incurred due to the CPO.

In short, compulsory purchase orders are a tool for ensuring that projects intended for the public good can proceed even when an agreement cannot be reached with property owners.

However, they also include provisions to protect the interests of those owners, including the right to object and to receive fair compensation.

Can you contest a CPO?

Yes, you can. However, it’s a complicated process.

You can contest a CPO on several grounds, which generally revolve around the justification for the order, the process followed in issuing it, and the compensation offered.

To make a contestation successful, an individual needs to present a compelling case based on one or more of the following aspects:

Necessity and justification: Contesting the necessity of the public project or the specific need for the property in question. If an individual can prove that the project could proceed without their property or that the project lacks sufficient public interest, this could form a basis for a successful challenge.
Procedural errors: Identifying procedural errors in the way the authority has issued the CPO. This includes failure to follow the correct consultation processes, not providing adequate notice, or not properly considering alternative options.
Compensation disputes: Arguing that the compensation offered is not adequate to cover the fair market value of the property and any additional expenses or losses caused by the compulsory purchase. Successful challenges often involve demonstrating that the valuation of the property was incorrect or that certain impacts were not considered.

(More on compensation disputes below).

If an individual successfully contests a CPO, several outcomes are possible:

Cancellation or modification of the CPO: The Government department might decide not to confirm the CPO, effectively cancelling the compulsory purchase. Alternatively, it might modify the terms of the CPO to address the concerns raised, which could involve excluding certain properties or parts of properties from the order.
Increased compensation: If the contestation successfully argues for higher compensation, the authority may need to offer a revised compensation package that more accurately reflects the value of the property and the impact on the owner.
Delay in project: Contestations can lead to delays in the project for which the CPO was made, as authorities address the concerns raised or seek alternative solutions.
Appeal to the Court: In some cases, the decision made by the Government department can be appealed in the courts, which may provide a further avenue for contestation if the initial objection process does not yield a satisfactory outcome.

In all cases of CPO challenges, it’s best to have a qualified and experienced solicitor on your side who can guide you through the process. We can also advise you on whether you have a valid claim.

Do you deserve more compensation than what you’ve been offered?

To receive more compensation than you’ve initially been offered for a CPO, you can take several steps to strengthen your case.

These steps typically involve challenging the initial valuation, demonstrating additional losses, or highlighting errors or omissions in the compensation calculation:

Obtain an independent valuation: You should hire a professional property valuer or surveyor with experience in compulsory purchase cases to provide an independent valuation of the property. We can put you in touch with one of our connections for this.
Identify and document additional losses: Compile evidence of additional losses that may not have been considered in the initial compensation offer. This can include relocation costs, loss of business income, or specific improvements made to the property. We can help you produce detailed records and documentation that will strengthen the case for additional compensation.
Engage a specialist solicitor: A solicitor who specialises in compulsory purchase and compensation disputes can provide great advice and represent you at every stage of the dispute. We can negotiate on your behalf, challenge the compensation offered using legal arguments, and ensure that all potential avenues are explored.
Formal negotiations: At this point, your solicitor will enter formal negotiations with the acquiring authority on your behalf, using the evidence and valuations you’ve gathered to argue for higher compensation. The goal is to reach an agreement that reflects the true value of the property and compensates for all losses incurred due to the CPO.
Refer to the Lands Tribunal: If negotiations do not result in a satisfactory offer, we can refer to the Lands Tribunal (in England and Wales) or the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal. This is a legal process where a tribunal will hear the case and determine the appropriate level of compensation.

The tribunal considers the evidence presented by both sides and has the power to award compensation that it deems just, which could be higher than the original offer.

Throughout negotiations and any tribunal proceedings, it’s crucial to present a strong, evidence-backed case.

This includes demonstrating the property’s value, the impact of the compulsory purchase on you, and any special features of the property that might not have been adequately considered.

That’s why it’s so important to retain all documents, letters and communications that might be used for future compensation claims.

It’s important to act promptly when you’ve been issued a CPO and seek professional advice early in the process. (There are usually time limits for challenging compensation offers).

Engaging with the process fully and professionally increases the likelihood of securing a fair and increased compensation package.

As specialists in dispute resolution (especially civil disputes) we are experts when it comes to CPOs and have dealt with many during the HS2 expansion.

If you find yourself facing a CPO, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our team. We can help you contest them and try to get a better compensation package or to keep your home.

For more information, please speak to our Property Disputes Team via email: enquiries@manderhadley.co.uk or call 024 7663 1212

Lorraine Walker

Solicitor – litigation and dispute resolution

Prior to qualifying as a solicitor, I worked within the education sector as a senior leader in a secondary school.