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Planning compulsory purchase orders rose sharply in 2014: research

The number of Planning Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) increased by 61% in 2014, research by Bond Dickinson has revealed.

The law firm found there were 58 Planning CPOs over the period, up from 36 in 2013 (which was the lowest figure since 2003).

In its report Bond Dickinson suggested that Planning CPOs were a powerful indicator of improving economic confidence. “The making of a CPO is often a key step in commitment by both the public and private sectors towards a major development scheme,” it argued.

“These signs of renewed development activity are therefore encouraging. However, it should be noted that use of Planning CPOs in 2014 still falls short of pre-recession levels.”

The law firm’s research also suggested that success rates were high. Of CPOs determined during 2012-2014, more than 95% of Planning and Housing CPOs were either confirmed or facilitated acquisition by agreement.

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In the handful of cases where CPOs failed, the reasons for this included technical drafting errors, the availability of alternative solutions, falling short of the need for compulsory acquisition and a failure to demonstrate that all Order land was needed.

“Planning CPOs failed sometimes because of challenges to the assumptions underlying the viability of a proposed scheme; failure to demonstrate that the CPO was timely; evidence of planning impediments; failure to meet the tests in Circular 06/04 including non-engagement with objectors; non-conformity with Local Development Frameworks; and the absence of an up to date evidence base establishing quantitative need,” Bond Dickinson said. 

“Meanwhile reasons for Housing CPOs to sometimes fail included: weight given to an existing owner’s ability to deliver a comparable scheme; the personal circumstances of an owner; and the acquiring authority’s failure to put in place delivery mechanisms for their preferred scheme.”

Local authorities were found to have used the powers sparingly in most cases. However, ccouncils to have made more extensive use included Enfield, Hackney, Liverpool and Brent (which all made three or more Planning CPOs); and Blackburn with Darwen, Derby City and Wigan (three Housing CPOs).

Burnley meanwhile made 14 Housing CPOs in 2014, having made 21 Housing CPOs in 2013. This was part of its Vacant Property Initiative which has been used to address long-term vacant property as part of a targeted approach to housing renewal.

Frank Orr, Legal Director at Bond Dickinson, said: “The report reveals a positive rise in the use of Planning CPOs compared with the previous year and consistently high success rates. This significant recovery in the number of Planning CPOs submitted in 2014 from a low in 2013 may be a positive indicator of returning confidence in an economic upturn.

"If that trend continues then we would anticipate a continued uplift in the use of Planning CPOs through 2015, as authorities seek to facilitate a range of development projects, however there is still some way to go to match pre-recession levels.

Orr added: "Acquiring authorities can take comfort from the good prospects of success but must use CPOs with care and pay close attention to the circumstances of each case to meet legal and policy requirements.

“Our report’s findings support the recognition by Government that compulsory purchase is an effective tool for delivering socio-economic and environmental change and regeneration.

"There is scope and need for improving delivery of properly made CPOs and the recently proposed streamlining of processes and decision-making timescales are to be welcomed.”

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