A CPO not being confirmed is an unusual occurrence, so two high profile CPOs rejected within 4 months of each other could be a wakeup call for many. Vicarage Field CPO in Barking was rejected in October last year, then followed by the refusal of the Nicholson Quarter redevelopment scheme in Maidenhead. What can be learned from these cases to ensure that the right preparation is completed for a CPO to succeed at Inquiry?
First, what is normally required for a CPO to granted?
- There must be a compelling case, which is in the public interest which justifies the effect the CPO will have on the human rights of those affected.
- Second, there must be no barriers to the scheme, such as planning or finance.
- Third, there must be reasonable attempt to acquire the land voluntarily through meaningful discussions, to minimise the need for CPO.
One the first criteria, both CPOs were successful, however, it was on the second and third criteria that the schemes ultimately fell. Let’s look at them individually.
Vicarage Fields, in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham was a scheme that promised a much-needed regeneration of the centre of the town centre of Barking, revitalising the area and attracting inward investment. The scheme promised over 900 new homes, a new healthcare facility, a new hotel, new green space, a multi-purpose cinema, and a new arts & music venue.
After obtaining planning permission the Council sought the relevant CPO powers to deliver the scheme, however, the CPO was ultimately denied at Inquiry. In the Inspector’s decision, they highlighted that the case was lacking was in viability and attempts to acquire the land by voluntary acquisition were “largely ineffective”.
On the matter of viability the inspectorate stated:
“[…] there is fundamental lack of tangible and substantive evidence on viability. Given […] the lack of an updated appraisal, I cannot be certain that the scheme is financially viable […] it is for the AA to demonstrate substantive information as to the financially viability of the scheme.”
“inadequate negotiations have taken place, when considering the CPO Guidance”
“[…] the financial offers have not been market value […] There have also been limited efforts to relocate those affected by the CPO to date.”
It is not clear whether either one of the viability or insufficient negotiations was enough to cause the refusal or whether it was the shortcomings on both fronts that caused it to be rejected. But the case of Nicholson’s Shopping Centre had no viability issues and was rejected solely due to insufficient negotiations.
Similar to Vicarage Fields, this is a town centre regeneration being promoted by a local authority comprising almost 1.5 million square foot of office, retail, and residential uses.
As with Vicarage Fields, Nicholson Quarter obtained planning permission and sought CPO powers to deliver the scheme, with the CPO being refused at Inquiry. Their main grounds of objection were that no suitable relocation premises had been offered to Smokeys, a local nightclub, and that consequently they faced a threat of extinguishment. The inspector noted there was a “a lack of genuinely constructive engagement” and a lack of recognition that the relocation property would need “like-for-like capability”. The Council did not make provision for Smokeys’ requirements elsewhere within the development by making provision in one of the other parts of the development. The Inspector commented: “the point of the exercise is to relocate the existing business, not simply make generic provision for any nightclub”.
- Demonstrate viability. Viability must be demonstrated in order to seek a CPO; when demonstrating viability, evidence should be recent, too historic and it might be considered insufficient.
- Meaningful offers. In any negotiation, it is expected that the AA will look to offer a lower amount, however, making offers below Market Value are not considered an attempt to acquire voluntarily and avoid the need for a CPO.
- Consider the specifics of the relocation. Where a business is being relocated, the AA needs to ensure they understand the specifics of the business, not just the general requirements of a similar business.
Please contact our Compulsory Purchase Team if you wish to discuss further any of the above.