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Derelict River Wharf Compulsory Purchase Blocked

No one should be deprived of their private property by public authorities unless there is a compelling public interest in doing so. This point was underlined by a case in which the High Court blocked compulsory purchase of a derelict river wharf after ruling that its owners had not been given a fair hearing.

The owners of the disused wharf had their own development hopes for the site and objected when the Port of London Authority resolved to compulsorily acquire it for the purpose of handling aggregates and batching concrete. Planning permission in respect of those proposals was subsequently refused, but the compulsory purchase order (CPO) was upheld by a government planning inspector.

In overturning that decision, the Court found that the owners could only be compelled to sell if there was a reasonable prospect that the site would be used for the purpose for which it was acquired. That objective had been put in jeopardy by the refusal of planning consent and the owners had been given no fair chance to address that issue before the inspector. In the circumstances, a compelling justification for depriving the owners of their property had also not been established.