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Listed Buildings and Compulsory Purchase Orders

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“I am a farmer with a listed building on my land. I have been served with a repair notice to preserve the listed building which is currently falling into disrepair. The local planning authority is considering a Compulsory Purchase Order (“CPO”) to acquire the listed building. What can I do?”

When a building is listed, it is of architectural and/or historical importance. While the landowner might be under no specific duty to preserve and contribute to the building’s longevity, local authorities do have specific powers in order to enforce the owner to carry out repairs and bring the building up to a standard which preserves and protects its integrity.

The legal regime in England and Wales for the compulsory purchase of a listed building in need of repair is found in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

The local planning authority will first serve a repairs notice on the owner of the listed building. The repair notice is issued where the local planning authority is of the view the listed building is being neglected by its owner to an extent by which the building is at risk and has been for an extended period of time. This might include circumstances where the roofing of a listed building is not effectively shielding its timbers from rain thereby causing considerable damage to its supporting structure or whereby its owner fails to safeguard the property to prevent trespassers from vandalising it.

When a repair notice is served, it will specify specific works which are reasonably necessary for the preservation of the listed building. These works must be preservative rather than restorative. The repair notice will also explain the effects of the relevant provisions of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. In essence, there is no appeals process when an owner is served with a repair notice.

If the repair notice is not complied with and the local planning authority is of the opinion the owner is not taking reasonable steps to preserve the listed building, it may begin compulsory purchase proceedings, which can be commenced two months after the repair notice was served.

In order for the local planning authority to lawfully acquire the listed building under Compulsory Purchase powers, there must be a compelling case that the acquisition is in the public interest. Additionally, as CPOs are a last resort, the local authority should seek to enter an agreement for the sale of the building first before commencing proceedings.

In the event that an agreement cannot be reached and CPO proceedings are commenced, the process is complex and legal assistance is essential to support and protect the owner’s interests throughout.

The local planning authority will begin assembling the relevant material and authorisations to submit the CPO. At this stage, there will be an opportunity to object by providing written submissions. A public inquiry will later be held at which time any individual opposed to the CPO may present their objections to an inspector.

In the event the CPO is confirmed by the inspector, there is a six-week deadline by which the owner of the listed building may challenge the CPO – although this approach is limited.

The nature of compulsory purchases is that the owner of the land should be compensated for the acquisition. However, there is an important caveat in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. If there is clear evidence that an owner deliberately allowed a listed building to fall into disrepair to justify its demolition and for development to occur in its place, the local planning authority can make a direction for minimum compensation within the CPO. In practice, this can mean a single payment of £1 can be made to acquire the listed building which displaces any regular rules on compensation.

In the event a minimum compensation direction is made, a solicitor can assist you by contesting the direction at a magistrates’ court to remove the direction and halt further compulsory purchase proceedings.

The rules relating to CPOs are very complicated - therefore legal advice and assistance throughout the process is essential.

For any compulsory purchase-related issues, contact a member of the Rural Practice Team on or call 03333 208 644.

This question is based on a hypothetical situation.