Long-running review of laws governing CPO nearing end

Image: Irish Water
Image: Irish Water
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Law Reform Commission is set to complete its work on its review of law compulsory acquisition of land project by late 2019/early 2020.

The Commission began the review back in 2015 which involves the consolidation, clarification and reform of the rules and principles on compulsory acquisition of land. 

The current process is considered unnecessarily complex, lengthy and costly and the purpose of the project would be to put in place a fair, effective and efficient system. 

The Commission has highlighted that the current law emanates from many different pieces of legislation and different rules apply depending on the type of compulsory purchase order (CPO) involved, whether for electricity, railways, roads or other matters. 

Indeed, it has said that some of the current legislation governing CPO predates the foundation of the State, including the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act 1845, the Railways Clauses Consolidation Act 1845 and the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act 1919.

Among the issues examined in the Commission’s Paper includes property valuation. 

The Commission has noted that currently, the property might be valued some years before the date when the compensation payment is actually made. 

This could result in injustice either to the State (if property prices plummet in the meantime) or to the landowner (if property prices go up). 

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One option being considered would be to say that the main principles would be to put the landowner in the same position, so far as money can do, as if the CPO had not happened (the equivalence principle) of that valuation and payment should happen at the same time.

The current rules that apply to assess compensation are also under review, many of which were enacted in 1919.

Currently, a single arbitrator usually determines CPO compensation. However, in the review, the Commission asks whether this should be reformed to include a 3 person panel, comprising 2 property arbitrators and a legal professional.

The Commission's review comes as the Scottish Land Commission recently recommended a 'public interest test' for the transfer of significant areas of land.

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