Reform the compulsory purchase system, demands CLA

29 October 2013

The Association has set out its plan for change in a new CLA report Fair Play: CLA vision for reform of the compulsory purchase system.

CLA Regional Director Robin Edwards said: "There are few threats to rural businesses as unfair as compulsory purchase, which often ends in bitter dispute and can wipe out generations of investment in a long and distressing process. This is underlined time and time again by our members in the region who are affected by projects such as HS2.

"I believe our reforms would improve the system at no additional cost. They will deliver a fairer balance between the interests of all parties, reducing conflict and delay and leading to better projects that take into account the impact on those affected and mitigate them better."

The CLA proposes that acquirers would owe a new "duty of care" towards those who own the assets, backed by an enforceable code of practice. Compensation packages need to reflect the true value of the property taken, and mitigation measures – such as building tunnels, embankments or bridges which should reduce the impact on the rural business affected.

Mr Edwards added: "Many properties suffer uncertainty and "blight" for several years before work starts so we are suggesting a property purchase guarantee scheme. Importantly, acquirers would also have a duty to take only the minimum amount of land required and to return any land that becomes surplus to the development.

"However, we have long argued that compulsory purchase should only be used as a final resort and that remains our position."

Cheryl Gillan, MP for Amersham and Chesham said: "I am supportive of the CLA's proposals to reform the compulsory purchase system to help people affected by major infrastructure projects such as HS2. The current system can be unfair and reform is both necessary and overdue."

CLA Kent Chairman and resident agent at Godinton House Nick Sandford said: "The nonsense of the current system is that some of England's finest and most treasured historic buildings and landscape which are typically protected by trusts and designations receive lower compensation and less protection compared to, for example, commercial farmland or a modern bungalow.

"In Godinton's case when the years of uncertainty, lobbying and campaigning over the choice of 3 routes were over Trustees were most concerned that HS1 was going to be built in front of the entrance gates of Godinton House a Grade 1 listed heritage property outside Ashford, and we have been blighted with the railway's proximity ever since. As well as the frequent intrusive noise and destruction of the lane outside Godinton's main gates, and a massive ugly concrete bridge, the compensation package was a disaster for Godinton. The estate is protected by the Trust documents and deeds and therefore can only be sold in extreme and very restricted circumstances. When it came to negotiating compensation the argument was that if the Estate cannot be sold it has no value, and if it has no value how can a value be reduced. While brutally logical this grossly unfair point was argued and challenged both parties taking counsels opinions. Despite the best efforts from the CLA and many other parties the Estate received a minimal compensation package that barely covered our costs. Our request for mitigation works, sound barriers etc were turned down flat."

Read 'Fair Play: CLA vision for reform of the compulsory purchase system'