The Neighbourhood Planning Bill ("the Bill") had its second reading in the House of Commons on 10 October 2016. It was subject to an interesting and involved debate (which can be read here), the bulk of which was devoted to issues of increasing housing supply and, unsurprisingly, neighbourhood planning.

Within the Bill however are a series of new provisions concerning compulsory purchase which will enact changes that have been consulted on by the Department of Communities and Local Government ("DCLG") in the consultations of March 2015 (Technical consultation on improvements to the compulsory purchase process) and March 2016 (Consultation on further reform of the compulsory purchase system). These are referred to in only a few pages of the 75 page printout of the second reading, and yet they are of genuine significance. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government introduced them as follows:

'Part of the problem is that the process is governed by a complex patchwork of statute and case law that has built up over many years. This slows the process down, increases costs, and bewilders individuals who are caught up in it. Ultimately, it benefits nobody - with the possible exception of lawyers'.

Note the unfair dig at lawyers, who surely are not the only professionals offering professional services in the CPO realm. All would welcome a comprehensive overhaul, but this remains a pipe dream as things stand.

Some of the amendments in the Bill are more briefly stated than others, and of the more straightforward:

  1. Clause 23 repeals various pieces of CPO legislation, but chiefly Part 4 of the Land Compensation Act 1961, so that claimants can no longer come back for a second bite of the cherry in compensation terms should a planning consent be granted on the land that provides additional value within ten years of the completion of the CPO.
  2. Currently, should a CPO be confirmed, there is no requirement that the confirmation notice is served within an express time. Clause 24 of the Bill introduces a new time limit, providing that such notices must be served before the end of six weeks from the date of confirmation. It is currently proposed that this will be subject to an ability for a longer period to be agreed between the Acquiring Authority and the Confirming Authority. If the Acquiring Authority fails to comply, then the Confirming Authority is empowered to serve the notice (and recover its costs in doing so).
  3. Under clause 26, Transport for London and the Greater London Authority will be able to make single overarching CPOs for transport and regeneration purposes. In the words of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government during the second reading: 'at present, they have to artificially divide projects and run parallel processes. This causes unnecessary cost, confusion and delay to much-needed development'.
  4. Clause 27 applies the provisions of sections 203 to 206 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to land held on behalf of the Greater London Authority or Transport for London, to allow the overriding of easements.

The more substantive changes proposed by the Bill have been brewing for some time. They include:

  1. An ability for a CPO to authorise the temporary taking of land (see chapter 1 of part 2).
  2. Amendments to the timings of advance payments of compensation.
  3. Changes to the way disturbance compensation will apply to those in possession, to link compensation more fairly to losses incurred by dint of losing possession, particularly business loss.
  4. At long last, an attempt to put into statute the 'Pointe Gourde' principle that market valuation must be undertaken on the basis of a no scheme world (see chapter 2 of part 1, clause 22 of the Bill). This will be music to the ears of those who have grappled with the case law on this issue (particularly the Spirerose case).

These changes will be the subject of future articles. It is clear from the consultation papers referred to above, and the responses received, that they are supported by the bulk of respondents. However, piecemeal reform may serve to render the CPO process even more 'bewildering' to the uninitiated. The Bill is, for example, already amending the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which received Royal Assent only in May 2016.