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Statutory Blight and Public Infrastructure Schemes: part 1 - Know your rights

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In this three-part article, we aim to provide you with an introduction to statutory blight and how it can arise when local authorities and public bodies are promoting their infrastructure schemes.

In this first part, we take you through the legal concept of statutory blight, and how and when it may apply. We’ll then explain the procedures and issues that may arise when making a claim in the second instalment before concluding with some suggested alternative options similar to, but outside of, the statutory blight regime.

What is Statutory Blight?

Commonly, ‘blight’ refers to situations where potential acquisition of land as part of proposed public development works causes its value to fall or renders it unsaleable, or because the land is in close proximity to the proposed public development works and the fear it may lose amenity.

Statutory blight concerns some, but not all, land affected by this ‘blight’. For example, it does not include land in close proximity of the public works scheme.

Specifically, statutory blight only covers land which is described in Schedule 13 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990), referred to as ‘blighted land’. It covers land that is:

  • identified in development plan documents or neighbourhood development plans for ‘public’ functions, such as those of a government department, local authority or statutory undertaker
  • within an area described as the site of a proposed new town, urban development area or Mayoral development area      
  • within an area declared by the Housing Act 1985 for clearance and renewal
  • indicated in a development plan as required for highway construction or improvements
  • identified for compulsory acquisition in any private Act, in the Transport and Works Act 1992, or in any other compulsory purchase order including a development consent order under the Planning Act 2008
  • safeguarded for a specific purpose (for example, for the purposes of constructing and operating the HS2 network)
  • within a location identified in a national policy statement as suitable or potentially suitable for a nationally significant infrastructure project (for example, proposed Heathrow expansion)
  • required for temporary possession pursuant to a compulsory purchase order under s18(2) of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 (NB. not yet in force).

Who has rights under Statutory Blight?

The primary purpose of the statutory blight provisions is to bring forward the public acquisition of private land to a time which suits the owner’s wishes, rather than at the convenience of the capital programme of the acquiring public authority.

This is achieved by service of a ‘blight notice’ under the provisions of the TCPA 1990 and is commonly referred to as a CPO in reverse.

However, not all owners of ‘blighted land’ have a right to serve a ‘blight notice’. To qualify, you must have unsuccessfully marketed the property (unless exempt).

  1. a qualifying interest

A person will have a ‘qualifying interest’ provided they satisfy the following criteria:

  1. The land must be either a dwelling, business premises or mixed dwelling/business premises or an agricultural unit and all or part of it is within ‘blighted land’.
  2. The person must be either the freeholder or a leaseholder with a lease period of at least   three years.
  3. The person has either an eligible interest in the land as:
  • a residential owner-occupier of a private dwelling;
  • an owner-occupier of business premises, with a net annual (rateable) value not exceeding £44,200 in Greater London and £36,000 in the rest of England) and
  • an owner-occupier of an agricultural unit or part of an agricultural unit

Or the person is:

  • a personal representative of a deceased person who, at the date of their death, would have been able to serve a blight notice; or
  • a mortgagee who has the right to sell the property can give immediate possession.
  1. The person must have occupied the land for at least 6 months or, if unoccupied for less than 12 months, then the 6 months proceeding.
  1. unsuccessfully marketed the property (unless exempt)

Unless the ‘blighted land’ is subject to a compulsory purchase order, the owner must show that they have made reasonable endeavours to sell the land at a realistic ‘unblighted’ price and that they have been unable to do so except at a substantially lower price.

There is no standard marketing requirement. If challenged by the relevant authority, then it is a matter of judgement of the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).

It should involve the placing of the land on the market but not necessarily in the hands of an agent.