The CLA is calling on the Government to implement a ‘root-and-branch’ reform of the compulsory-
purchase system. This will be of particular relevance to property owners potentially affected by the high-speed rail line, HS2, which cuts across the Chilterns and swathes of Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. ‘There are few business relationships that are as unfair as that in compulsory purchase, which all too often ends in bitter disputes,’ explains CLA president Harry Cotterell.

‘Rural landowners suffer doubly, having their land compulsorily purchased and then having to live with the consequences, often for generations. Our proposals would deliver a fairer balance between the interests of all parties.’

The CLA’s report cites the tragic case of a Welsh sheep farmer who, after having a substantial amount of his farm compulsorily purchased, had to rent land for his animals. Despite a claim for compensation being agreed, four years of non-payment followed, the bank foreclosed on him and he took his own life. Another CLA member has £40,000 in outstanding claims, dating back to 1994.

At Haydon Bridge in North York-shire, a land agent is battling to get compensation for the poor state of ground used by the Highways Agency to store soil. Another Welsh landowner has waited 22 years to reopen his colliery after a road bridge was built over it and says: ‘You lose the will to live.’

The CLA proposes a ‘duty of care’ to owners, backed by an enforceable code of practice, compensation packages that reflect the true value of the property built over and mitigation measures, such as tunnels, embankments or bridges, which could reduce the impact on a rural business. Buyers would have a duty to take only the minimum amount of land required and return any that become surplus after building.

There would also be compensation for ‘blight’ (when a property is blighted long-term by a proposal which has stalled)-this is particularly relevant to people who live on the route of HS2.

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