RTPI Cymru has responded to the Welsh Government Consultation on the Reforms to the Compulsory Purchase Process.
We welcome the recognition of the important contribution Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) powers can make to plans and planning for social, environmental and economic well-being, including placemaking, regeneration and housing delivery.
Our previous response to the Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs): updated policy and guidance (January 2020) can be found here.
The CPO Manual proposed for publication later in 2021, intended to improve practice in the use of CPO powers and processes, will be a welcome guide to stakeholders and alongside the Circular ‘Compulsory Purchase in Wales and ‘The Crichel Down Rules (Wales Version, 2020)’ and Planning Policy Wales, will form a useful resource for practitioners.
We note that infrastructure is only mentioned in the context of statutory decision-making timescales (DNS and NSIPs). We assume there will be links made with CPO and the Welsh Infrastructure Consent (WIC) process when this is progressed by Welsh Government?
While the proposals set out in the consultation appear reasonable and should improve the process, we have the following observations to make in relation to some of the proposals.
Proposals for changes to primary legislation
We note the problems that arise where landowners are unknown or untraceable. It is proposed to allow site notices to be addressed to the “owner” or “occupier” of the land where the name of a person occupying or having an interest in land cannot, after reasonable inquiry, be ascertained by the acquiring authority. This along with other suggestions, including the depositing of CPO documents for inspection both at physical locations and in electronic format seem to be a reasonable modernisation of the process. However, while we support the use of electronic communication, we question the suitability of email communication, given email addresses can be subject to regular change etc. and would encourage use of other promotion via social media and websites.
We note a new statutory timescale of 12 weeks for issuing decisions is proposed, including those for planning, regeneration, housing, listed buildings in need for repair. This proposal again seems reasonable and should give stakeholders greater certainty in preparing for implementation.
Finally, in respect of primary legislation, to reduce the costs of acquisition, it is proposed to provide relief from Land Transaction Tax (LTT) where land is purchased following the making of a CPO by a local authority for the purposes of facilitating housing development and redevelopment or improvement of empty properties. This would appear to be a helpful proposal.
Proposals for Changes to Inquiries Procedure Rules
It is proposed to authorise and facilitate pre-inquiry meetings to be conducted by means of a telephone or video conference facility, subject to safeguards. This seems a reasonable modernisation, given experiences and learning during the pandemic.
As above, we note provisions arising from difficulties in identifying owners and occupiers are proposed, permitting the use of “owner” and “occupier” on notices. However, it is also proposed that service can be effected by “delivering it to some person on the land or if there is no person on the land to whom it may be delivered, leaving it or a copy of it on or near the land” (c, pg17). This appears to be potentially open to interpretation and confusion. We would suggest that further thought and clarity is provided. As discussed above and we raise the same concerns regarding electronic communications in relation to email addresses.