Compulsory purchase

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

Reviewing outdated compulsory purchase laws to support a faster, simpler and more modern land acquisition process

The problem

Compulsory purchase is a legal mechanism by which certain bodies can acquire land without the consent of the owner.

The ability to purchase land using compulsory powers is essential to the implementation of large-scale projects to improve both local and national infrastructure. The number and scale of such projects is likely to intensify in coming decades, particularly in light of the UK’s net zero climate targets.

Compulsory purchase powers are also required to assemble land for much-needed regeneration of towns and cities, and for the provision of housing.

At the same time, compulsory purchase powers can cause significant detrimental impacts on those individuals and businesses affected by them and should only be used as a last resort, when it is in the public interest.

It has been widely acknowledged for over two decades that the law of compulsory purchase in England and Wales is fragmented, hard to access and in need of modernisation. In the early 2000s, this led to a three-year project by the Law Commission, Towards a Compulsory Purchase Code, which resulted in the publication of two reports dealing with compensation and procedure respectively.

The recommendations of the 2003 and 2004 Law Commission reports were very favourably received, but not implemented in full. Since then, incremental changes to the law have been made. Yet there have been continued calls for comprehensive modern code.

The project 

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has asked the Law Commission to review the current law on compulsory purchase and compensation.

The Law Commission will review:

  • The procedures governing the acquisition of land through compulsory purchase orders (CPOs).
  • The system for assessing the compensation awarded to parties in relation to such acquisitions.

The aim will then be to produce a draft Bill consolidating the law and making proposals for technical changes to ensure that the law is fit for purpose.

Next steps 

Preliminary research on this review has begun. This research will include a review of the 2003 and 2004 Law Commission reports on compulsory purchase as well as pre-consultation engagement with stakeholders and analysis of the current law.

Terms of Reference

Read the project’s Terms of Reference (ToR) here.


For further information, or to get in touch with the team leading the project, please contact

Project details

Area of law

Public law


Nicholas Paines KC