HS2 – The fast track to Compulsory Purchasing

We’ve had quite enough to think about lately, what with Brexit, the pre-Christmas furniture sales, and the first of the autumn storms battering our shores. But there’s one issue that, for many people, is much more immediate, and that’s the potential loss of their home to the much-lambasted HS2 train link. This controversial project was given the green light last year, and is all set to connect the Northern Powerhouse to London in a few years’ time.

The trouble is that the HS2 plans keep changing, leaving householders and business owners concerned that a new day could bring a compulsory purchase order through the post, and take away their home or place of work overnight. A prime example of this is the brand-new Shimmer estate in Mexborough, South Yorkshire, which could be partially or completely demolished if new plans for the route go ahead. The estate has only just been completed, and now up to 200 homes are at risk.

The case highlights the murky world of CPOs or Compulsory Purchase Orders. So what are they, and how do you respond if you get one through the post?
What exactly is a CPO?

A CPO lets public bodies (including government departments like the Department of Transport) force homeowners and land owners to sell their property if it lies in the pathway of a proposed development. That could be anything from a new motorway to an airport runway, a new hospital, or, as in this case, a new train line. CPOs can be imposed by a wide selection of organisations, from English Heritage to the local council. However, CPOs have to be ‘for the public good’ and not for personal profit or gain.

Does a CPO force me to sell?

In short, yes. However, you don’t have to rush out and sell your property immediately, and the long and complicated process could take years, not weeks. Even then the application may be rejected. For instance, the HS2 project does not have the power to send out CPOs until it has Royal Assent, which could take as long as 10 years to complete. What often happens, though, is that home owners are offered a compensation package and are encouraged to sell their property voluntarily.

How much will I get?

If you are forced to sell your property then you must be paid the current market value (whether or not that’s more or less than you originally paid), plus an additional 7.5-10% in compensation. There are also other costs you can claim, such as ‘disturbance compensation’ that can cover some of your buying costs for a new property, including survey fees and consultancy costs.
What if I just ignore it?

If you simply ignore any letters or correspondence concerning a CPO you could quickly find yourself on the wrong side of the law. It’s important to respond to all correspondence, and to make sure you have a legal expert on your side to help guide you through the process.

Objecting to a CPO

You can object, but be prepared for a long and potentially expensive battle. When you receive a CPO, the organisation trying to acquire your property must disclose all contact details of the appropriate Government minister in charge of the process (so for HS2 it is primarily the Minister for Transport). Once again, top of your to-do list has to be to get proper legal help, either through the Institute of Chartered Surveyor’s CPO helpline, or your legal representative.

You can also object in person, or even try to negotiate a better price for your property, but be prepared to end up with less rather than more. And unless you’re a legal expert yourself, make sure you have that all-important representation and legal advice on hand before entering any negotiations.

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