Compulsory purchase

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

Reviewing outdated compulsory purchase laws to support a faster, fairer and more accessible land acquisition process

The problem

Compulsory purchase is a legal mechanism by which certain bodies can acquire land without the consent of the owner.

The ability to purchase land using compulsory powers is essential to the implementation of large-scale projects to improve both local and national infrastructure. Between 2025 and 2055, public capital expenditure on economic infrastructure is estimated to cost between 1.1 and 1.3% of GDP each year.

Compulsory purchase powers are also required to assemble land for much-needed housing, for employment and community facilities, and for environmental purposes – including projects designed to achieve climate action. It was for such reasons that the UK Government’s 2022 White Paper, Levelling Up the United Kingdom, included a pledge to enhance compulsory purchase powers.

It has been widely acknowledged for over two decades, however, that the law of compulsory purchase in England and Wales is fragmented, hard to access and in need of modernisation. In the early 2000s, this led to a three-year project by the Law Commission, Towards a Compulsory Purchase Code, which resulted in the publication of two reports dealing with compensation and procedure respectively.

The recommendations of the 2003 and 2004 Law Commission reports were very favourably received, but not implemented in full. Since then, incremental changes to the law have been made. Yet there have been continued calls for comprehensive modern code.

The project 

The UK Government has stated that is it committed to a faster and fairer compulsory purchase process which is readily accessible to all parties. To achieve this, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) asked the Law Commission to review the current law on compulsory purchase, examining the consolidation and modernisation of the law that would be required.

In the review, the Law Commission will examine the technical laws concerning:

  • The procedures governing the acquisition of land through compulsory purchase orders (CPOs).
  • The system for assessing the compensation awarded to parties in relation to such acquisitions.

Next steps 

Preliminary research on this review will begin in early 2023. This research will include a review of the 2003 and 2004 Law Commission reports on compulsory purchase as well as pre-consultation engagement with stakeholders and analysis of the current law.


For further information, or to get in touch with the team leading the project, please contact

Project details

Area of law

Public law


Nicholas Paines KC