In the second instalment of this three-part article, which provides an introduction to statutory blight and how it can arise when local authorities and public bodies are promoting their infrastructure schemes, we explain the procedure steps that may arise when making a claim.
Previously, we looked at the legal concept of statutory blight and how and when it may apply, whilst the final part will examine some suggested alternative options similar to, but outside of, the statutory blight regime.
Step 1 – Service of blight notice
The first step when claiming statutory blight is the service of the ‘blight notice’. Schedule 2 of the Town and Country Planning Regulations 1992 sets out the prescribed forms for notices and counter-notices for statutory blight.
Importantly, the ‘blight notice’ must be served on the appropriate public authority by whom the blighted land is liable to be acquired. It must identify:
- the relevant land
- the correct paragraph of schedule 13 which qualifies the land (or part) as blighted land
- the claimant’s ‘qualifying interest’
The notice should append proof of ownership, proof of residency for the required period and, if required, evidence of marketing.
Step 2 – Authority’s acceptance or counter-notice
Following service of a blight notice under Step 1, the authority has two months to either accept it and offer to purchase the property or serve a counter-notice specifying one or more grounds for objection. The authority must contain all the grounds upon which it wishes to object in the counter-notice.
A potential issue is whether the notice was served on the right authority. This is not a ground for objection but a preliminary issue for determination by the Secretary of State. A counter-notice must then be served two months from such determination.
The grounds for an authority’s counter-notice are limited to:
- no part of the hereditament or agricultural unit is comprised in blighted land;
- the authority does not propose to acquire any part of the hereditament or agricultural unit;
- the authority proposes to acquire a part of the hereditament or agricultural unit but does not propose to acquire any other part;
- the claimant was, on the date of service of the blight notice, not entitled to an interest in any part of the hereditament or agricultural unit to which the notice relates;
- the interest of the claimant is not a qualifying interest;
- the claimant has not demonstrated that it made reasonable endeavours to sell and has been unable to do so except at a price substantially lower than its unblighted value; and
- the authority does not propose to acquire any part of the hereditament or agricultural unit within the next 15 years. The onus of proof is on the authority and, if upheld, then the Secretary of State will give it very great weight should a CPO subsequently be brought forward in such time.
Where the authority objects to acquiring all the land in the ‘blight notice’ (usually in cases where only part of such land is ‘blighted land’), the following tests will be determined by the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber):
- Non-agricultural land - no person may be required to sell a part only of: (a) any house building or manufactory unless it will not cause a material detriment to it; or (b) any park or garden belonging to a house unless it will not seriously affect the amenity or convenience of the house;
- Agricultural land – whether the unaffected land is reasonably capable of being farmed either by itself, or in conjunction with: (a) other land comprised in the agricultural unit but not included in the blight notice; or (b) land in another agricultural unit occupied by the claimant.
Step 3 – Compensation and Land Purchase
A blight notice becomes effective either by the absence of a counter-notice being served, the withdrawal of any counter-notice, or the counter-notice not upheld by the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).
As at such effective date, the authority is deemed to be authorised to compulsory acquire the interest specified in the notice and a notice to treat is deemed to have been served. The parties will then negotiate and agree the transfer of the land and associated compensation. Any dispute is determined by the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).
The compensation for compulsory acquisition, pursuant to a blight notice, is assessed in accordance with the normal rules. Categories of compensation include:
- The unblighted market value of land taken (disregarding the proposed scheme);
- Severance and injurious affection to land retained by the owner;
- Disturbance for property occupiers such as removal fees;
- Professional costs on the blight notice (ie. legal and surveyor fees); and
- Home loss payment (10% up to £61,000).