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Land Owners’ Rights Must Sometimes Bow to the Public Good

The rights of property owners are often viewed as constitutional in their sanctity – but even they sometimes have to give way to the general public good. In one case that illustrated the point, a commercial property owner could not prevent the compulsory acquisition of a strip of its land to make way for an urban regeneration scheme.

In making the disputed compulsory purchase order (CPO), the local authority argued that the land in question was essential to provide a viable and attractive route to a new shopping centre in the heart of the city. The CPO was upheld by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government following a public inquiry before a government planning inspector.

However, the freehold owner of the land launched a High Court challenge to the CPO on the basis that it was unnecessary and that the inspector had failed to adequately consider an alternative pedestrian route to the development. The compulsory acquisition was not fundamental to the success of the scheme and would yield minimal public benefits.

The Court acknowledged the central importance of private property rights and that the burden was on the local authority to make a compelling case that the CPO was necessary. However, in dismissing the owner’s challenge, the Court noted that the inspector was fully alive to all the issues in the case, had addressed his mind to them and had given adequate reasons for the recommendations he made to the Secretary of State as final decision-maker.