Housing, Neighbourhood Planning and Compulsory Purchase

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Legalities regarding planning and compulsory purchase don’t usually inspire a will to read on, but bear with me, as planning can fundamentally affect our lives, our communities and the countryside and any changes to it are worth taking note of. A couple of weeks ago, on 10th October, the Neighbourhood Planning Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons. The debate itself is well worth a read and is available here. The Bill is largely about neighbourhod planning. However, at its heart lies a set of changes that will be made to compulsory purchase orders, based on the consultations made in March 2015 and March 2016. These build on the changes already made through the Housing and Planning Act, which included the right for acquiring authorities to survey land before declaring compulsory purchase and setting in stone the dates and amounts of advance payments made to existing landowners. The current Bill does the following:

  1. It repeals various pieces of previous compulsory purchase legislation and principally part 4 of the Land Compensation Act 1961 so that existing landonwers (claimants) cannot make a case for increased payments should planning be granted on the land and the value increases in a ten year period, before works commence.
  2. Clause 24 of the Bill makes it clear that a confirmation notice must be announced within 6 weeks of the period following the making of a confirmation.
  3. Clause 26 gives Transport for London and the Greater London Authority the right to carry out large compulsory purchase orders over large clumps of land. Previously they had to divide projects up and pretend they were multiple sections, even though, in reality, they were part and parcel of the same thing. Whilst this is good in that it will save public money and reduce delay, it is perhaps a worrying trend for landowners. Will this be rolled out wider in the future?
  4. Permission granted to the Great London Authority and Transport for London to override easements.
  5. A compulsory purchase order can allow the temporray taking of land, to be returned at a later date.
  6. Compensation payments linked to losses in terms of losing possession, which can be detrimental to many businesses. This added flexibilty is surely a good thing.
  7. Attempts to put the ‘pointe gourde’ principal into statute (at long last according to many). Pointe gourde is basically the principal that land should be purchased at the market value, discounting the influence of the situation of purchase.

Of course these are all subject to further revisions and we will have to see what actually gets through to the legal books. It is certainly worth being aware of though if you live in any area likely to experience big infrastructure projects in the coming years.

There were some particularly interesting questions during the debate, for example, to do with the privatisation of the land registry (question from Richard Drax, South Dorset). Sajid Javid reassured the House that privatisation was not on the cards presently (although he didn’t rule it out taking place in the future). The future of the green belt also appeared to be safe. Clearly however the main focus was on giving communities yet more of a say in the forward planning and positioning of development moving into the future. Of course local councils remain in control but communities will have more of a say, which has to be a good thing.

This does nothing to get away from the current trajectory and that is growth, growth and yet more growth. Further, it probably means growth concentrated in certain areas. It is a rather vicious cycle in that there is a push to build more houses in the more expensive areas so that prices can reduce. However, in doing so more people move to the area and wealth becomes yet more concentrated. We need a plan that works for the whole country and encourages regionalisation. The green belt might be safe but local areas still face the prospect of immense and rapid growth, at a speed where community identity struggles to keep up. Growth is no longer organic but planned in a way that does not really allow for community social development. Growth is perhapos necessary but it should be driven by the twin pillars of economy and society, not just the former.

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