The Welsh Government has announced changes to planning policy which allows councils to compulsorily purchase empty houses and vacant land. There is hope that this will help communities with recovery following the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is a Compulsory Purchase Order?
A Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) gives public bodies the power to obtain land or property without the consent of the owner, provided they can prove that it is in the public interest to do so.
When are CPOs considered to be necessary and in the public interest?
When used correctly, CPOs are thought to be a useful tool for public bodies to obtain land in order to implement positive economic, environmental or social changes in an area.
For example, CPOs can be used to facilitate a large-scale regeneration or development of an area which can, in turn, create jobs or encourage investment. They can also be used on a smaller scale, for example, to re-develop derelict houses which may be considered dangerous or a nuisance to a local area.
Changes to CPOs in Wales
The Welsh Government has acknowledged the increasing demand for housing in Wales and the importance of bringing empty commercial properties back into use to create jobs and revitalise communities. They believe that the increased use of CPOs is an important tool to address these issues; giving local authorities the opportunity to transform some of the estimated 30,000 empty properties in Wales into homes and places of work.
To reflect this, the Welsh Government has announced the following changes:
1. Changes to Planning Policy Wales (PPW)
The Welsh Government has made amendments to paragraph 3.53 of PPW to strengthen the powers of local planning authorities to use CPOs to facilitate developments or improvements to sites when it is in the public interest to do so.
2. Updated guidance on CPO legislation
The Welsh Government has introduced Circular 003/2019: Compulsory Purchase in Wales and ‘The Crichel Down Rules (Wales Version, 2020) which replaces the previous guidance, National Assembly for Wales Circular (NAFWC) 14/2004: Revised Circular on Compulsory Purchase Orders.
The updated guidance provides clarification on how best to use CPO for the benefit of communities and provides advice on the application process to ensure that applications are processed quickly without errors.
The future of CPOs in Wales
The Welsh Government has indicated that the need for CPOs will continue to grow as communities attempt to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a bid to support communities and aid recovery, it has identified a number of key areas of policy which will be prioritised. Among these are planning, housebuilding and the regeneration of towns and cities and it is believed that the use of CPOs will be pivotal to implementing these priorities. However, in order to reap the benefits of CPOs, the Welsh Government has stated that the rules relating to CPOs must be clearer.
It has therefore published a new consultation on the implementation of additional reforms aimed at streamlining and modernising the current legislative framework for CPOs.
The Welsh Government is seeking responses to the consultation until 19 January 2021.
The Commercial Property team at Darwin Gray will continue to provide updates on this.
For more details on CPOs or a related topic, please contact the Commercial Property team at Darwin Gray: www.darwingray.com/commercialproperty