Compulsory purchase

Reviewing outdated compulsory purchase laws to support a faster, fairer and more accessible land acquisition process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, in autumn 2022, 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.

Next steps 

The final terms of this project are currently being finalised with the Government. Updates will be published on this page.

Project details

Area of law

Public law

Commissioner

Nicholas Paines KC