Compulsory Purchase is supposed to be in the public interest. That is on a balance, weighing up the benefits to the wider public against the loss to individual property owners, the former should outweigh the latter.
In the majority of the Compulsory Purchase schemes we are involved with, the main tests are whether the authority can prove that the scheme on a balance benefits –
1) The economic wellbeing
2) The social wellbeing
3) The environmental wellbeing
This is all of what is called, the area of administrative responsibility. So for example, if a council estate in Borough X is being regenerated, the public interest for the entire borough as a whole will be considered. The residents within the estate are of course an important element of that but not the only consideration.
Application for powers
When a Compulsory Purchase Order is made, the authority making it are merely applying for Compulsory Purchase powers. They do not have them as a right. They have to apply to a Government Department for the powers. Normally the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government.
Once the Compulsory Purchase Order is made, there will be a period within which objections can be submitted to the Secretary of State, typically 28 days though this can vary.
What we can do
If instructed to, we can submit objections on behalf of clients. However, the law does not require authorities to pay for this service and as such, we would normally charge our clients directly.
We have a 100% success rate with ensuring that our objections are qualifying. Many objections submitted directly from affected parties get thrown out as not qualifying.
It is however important to be aware that Government data suggests that approximately 96% of the time, Council’s are granted Compulsory Purchase powers. With one or two notable exceptions over the years, the 4% that fail are typically very small Orders affecting one or two properties where there have been drafting errors.
The odds therefore are firmly stacked in the acquiring authorities favour. Objections can be made but their chances of stopping or altering a scheme are typically very slim.
What can objections be based on?
Objections need to be on qualifying grounds or they will not be considered. For example, suggestions that Market Value offers are too low will not qualify.
If Sawyer Fielding submit objections, we would analyse the authorities Statement of Reasons (a document served with a Compulsory Purchase Order) for potential holes and reference both that and other regulatory guidance in advising clients of potential grounds to consider.
Public Inquiry and objection withdrawals
If a qualifying objection is submitted, a Public Inquiry will be called where the merits of the Compulsory Purchase Order will be assessed by a Government appointed Inspector. Evidence will be heard from the acquiring authority and their partners. Objectors may also wish to be heard. Both ‘sides’ could be cross examined by an advocate. For an acquiring authority, this would typically be a QC. Court rules apply.
Sawyer Fielding have appeared as expert witness in proceedings. It is important to be aware though that as an expert witness, our duty of care under regulatory requirements is then to the Public Inquiry, rather than to our clients.
Objectors have the right to submit a further document to the Inquiry called a Statement of Case further outlining their objections. This would typically then be read out by the objector, sometimes in a summary form, for the acquiring authority to then cross examine if they wish. The Inspector can also ask questions if he or she decides to.
Until such time that the Compulsory Purchase powers are granted, the objections can be withdrawn in writing. If there are no outstanding objections, the authority are normally able to confirm the powers themselves or cancel a Public Inquiry if in time.