The Law Reform Commission (the “LRC”) has recently published a report on the Compulsory Acquisition of Land together with a draft bill entitled “the Acquisition of Land Bill 2023”. The CPO’ing of land will become more common place as the State seeks to utilise lands for the provision of housing and aims to bring more derelict buildings throughout the country back into circulation.
The LRC report discusses a number of points and makes various recommendations on how the CPO system in Ireland can be improved for the benefit of landowners and acquiring authorities.
By way of background, a CPO is a statutory mechanism that permits certain statutory bodies to acquire land without the consent of a landowner. Typically, CPOs have been used by acquiring authorities (such as local authorities) in order to facilitate the acquisition of land by those authorities for a desired purpose such as the construction of new roads, cycle lanes and construction of wastewater treatment plants.
The LRC’s recommendations outlined in the report aim to make the process of CPO faster, fairer, and more transparent for both landowners and acquiring authorities.
Some of the key recommendations outlined in the report are as follows:
- The notice to treat procedure should be replaced with a new “vesting order procedure”. This would require an acquiring authority to deal with a CPO punctually resulting in the acquiring authority having a period of 12 months from an operative CPO to proceed to acquisition. Currently the time period is unlimited.
- If an acquiring authority decides to proceed, the landowner should be given 3 months’ notice before being required to vacate their land.
- Payments of no less than 90% of the estimated compensation should be paid to the landowner by the acquiring authority on or before the time of purchase rather than the current system of at the time compensation is agreed (which can in some instances be after the owner loses possession of its property).
- Places a time period on a statutory footing to bring a claim for compensation which will be 20 years from service of a notice to treat or vesting order.
- Where an acquiring authority cannot find the true owner of the land or if a person who claims they own the land but cannot provide evidence of their ownership, the acquiring authority must pay the estimated compensation to the High Court. The true owner of the land has 25 years to apply to the High Court to receive their compensation.
- A statutory body specialising in land valuation should be put in place, to resolve disputes in relation to the amount of compensation given to landowners. The LRC suggested that the Valuation Tribunal would be suitable for this role.
It remains to be seen whether the LRC recommendations to overhaul the CPO procedure will be implemented.