TIM Parsons Chartered Surveyor & Director of Professional Compliance H&H Land and Estates discusses how the Government’s compulsory purchase powers affect rural landowners.

“Where national, regional, or local infrastructure projects take place, they often involve government backed bodies, who rely on using Compulsory Purchase powers to ensure that schemes can progress “in the public interest”. Compulsory purchase powers inevitably affect rural landowners, especially for the larger and more rural road or rail projects. There is an increasing use of what are called Development Consent Orders for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP’s). Using these the relevant authority applies for all its planning consents and compulsory purchase powers in one process, with the aim of making the scheme delivery quicker.

This is how the A66 Dualling Scheme, is being promoted, and that increased pace is reflected in the interaction with landowners. This method of delivery means that there is significantly more early engagement with landowners and interested parties in the design and development of a scheme than was perhaps the case under the traditional separate planning and compulsory purchase procedures.

So, what should landowners do when face with a public scheme that may involve compulsory powers? The key thing is to engage early with the relevant authority. Discussing key issues early in the design and development process allows the authority to adapt their scheme. For landowning clients getting the authority to understand farm practices, rotations, farming systems and logistics is key. This is the point to raise anything that you think may be affected by the scheme and how that might be resolved practically rather than having to revert solely to compensation. If representations are left till later in the process getting practical changes agreed is so much harder although there are opportunities for landowners to make representations to the Planning Inspector, when the scheme is publicly examined, but this can be highly costly. The relevant authorities are required to have undertaken public consultation on their proposals so take advantage of that early.

During the construction phase of a scheme, it is essential to keep good channels of communication open with not only with the authority but also their contractors. Be wary however of deals with contractors for example for compounds, soil tips etc as you will often not have a direct contractual relationship with them and thus any arrangements will need to be properly documented in case of any issues. Contractors can go “bust” whereas acquiring authorities do not!

In terms of compensation there has been a shift in approach by some authorities with many now trying to agree terms for at least part of the compensation early in the scheme, so that the parties have some certainty. This is opposed to the traditional approach of the authority paying 90% of their assessment of compensation. Although some of the compensation might be agreed early it is important to keep accurate records of issues that arise during the scheme construction as some elements of a claim are difficult to assess or agree until completion.