Planning & Environment

When land acquired by compulsory purchase becomes surplus to requirements, the acquiring authority may be obliged to offer it back to the former owner. This issue is governed by the Crichel Down Rules (CDR) which set out who is entitled to have land returned and the process to be followed.

The CDR may be of particular interest to those affected by current roads projects such as the A9 and A96 Duallings, as well as recently completed ones, such as the M74 Completion. This is because all land needed for these projects is acquired on a permanent basis, even where the project need is in fact temporary – for example during the construction period only.

In these circumstances, former landowners or tenants might want to rely on the CDR after the project is completed, or at a later date, to secure the handback of their land.

The small print of the CDR is often overlooked. So it’s worth remembering that, amongst other things –

  • the land will be offered back at market value
  • if the owner (at the time of acquisition) has sold on his remaining land post-CPO, the new owner is not entitled to the surplus land and
  • land which has materially changed in character since acquisition – for example due to demolition or construction works or afforestation – is exempt.

This last exemption required a bespoke policy approach for the Crossrail project in London. Much of the land acquired for the project was ultimately surplus to requirements above the ground, but had been materially changed below ground level, where tunnels or underground stations had been built.

New policy was therefore adopted to allow people with qualifying interests to buy back the land jointly or individually regardless of these changes.

Closer to home, much of the land being acquired for current roads projects will be used for mitigation works or planting schemes, materially changing it. While the promoter may be willing to offer the land back in due course, landowners should not assume that this will be the case, and should plan accordingly.

Karen Hamilton
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