Transformative infrastructure projects, whether railways or highways, utilities or flood defences are rarely built on land owned entirely by an infrastructure promoter. This does present those that develop complex infrastructure projects with a problem. How can you deliver viable and critical new infrastructure on land if you do not own it?
In this article, WSP’s Ashley Parry Jones, Head of Profession for Land explores the origins of compulsory purchase. This is the legal due process designed to resolve contested land ownership and something that all infrastructure promoters need to proactively manage if they put a project through the planning process in the UK.
Compulsory purchase, or the prospect of its use, is an extraordinary power that all infrastructure promoters must employ responsibly. Those that grant these powers are eager to be seen to be going through due process and to ensure that all those who need to be consulted and involved in the democratic process are given a voice.
Rules in England ensure that all those who have land or rights that might be affected by development are individually identified. Sufficient information must be provided by infrastructure promoters to those impacted so they know what powers are being sought and why, and they are given a statutory right to have their view heard.
Magna Carta and the origins of compulsory purchase
As every history scholar knows, Magna Carta was signed by King John at Runnymede near Windsor on 15 June 1215. This “Great Charter” was drafted to strike a peace deal between King John and leading rebel barons.
It started a process to limit the power of the state and enshrined civil liberties for the people over whom the monarch ruled. Over 800 years later, four of these clauses remain in effect in English law today. Clause 39 is one of these, it outlines: