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Compulsory purchase orders fall sharply but remain successful

Words: Huw Morris

Submissions of planning compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) fell sharply last year although their success rates remain high, according to latest research.

Submissions of planning CPOs, which are often deployed on large-scale development projects, fell by 30 per cent in 2016, with 40 applications compared to 57 in 2015 and 58 in 2014. 

However, this is still higher than the 36 submitted in 2013 – the lowest level since 2003. 

The figures, compiled by law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, reveal housing CPOs also dipped from 54 submitted in 2015 to 39 in 2016. 

But success rates for both kinds of CPO remain high. For planning CPOs, at least 87 per cent in 2015 and 82 per cent in 2016 succeeded. For housing CPOs the equivalent figures are at least 93 per cent in 2015 and 94 per cent in 2016. 

The regional hot spots for compulsory purchase submissions between 2003 – 2016 are the North West of England and London, followed by the West Midlands. 

CPOs are used nationwide but the research suggests that while many authorities have used their compulsory purchase powers, they do so sparingly. A relatively small number of authorities account for a significant proportion of CPOs made. 

In the North West, the extensive use of housing compulsory purchase powers by Burnley and Wigan Councils, and of planning compulsory purchase powers by Liverpool and Manchester City Councils respectively, contribute significantly to the results. In the West Midlands, Birmingham and Wolverhampton Councils have made substantial numbers of housing CPOs, with the former also making 19 planning CPOs.

“CPOs are a vital tool for regeneration, success rates for both planning and housing CPOs remain high and there are a range of reasons, from technical to evidential, why a small percentage of CPOs are not confirmed,” said Womble Bond Dickinson planning partner Jonathan Bower.

“A significant number of local authorities make use of compulsory purchase powers but generally they do so sparingly.

"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."

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