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CPO Talking Heads: May 2024

Compulsory Purchase Process and the Crichel Down RulesIs it Time to Re-Focus or Dispose of the Rules?

This event runs as an informal discussion with a small panel of leading and informed practitioners extracting the nuances from this months topic "Temporary Possession Powers". It will discuss practical issues that arise, with participants in the meeting being encouraged to listen, join in, ask questions and share comments.

The CPA have partnered with CPT Events to bring you CPO Talking Heads.

Start Date Venue Price  
20 May 2024 Virtual Seminar    

Note: All prices are to be paid in GBP and are subject to VAT at the prevailing rate

Event duration: 1 Hour Topical Panel Discussion.
Registration from: 12.55. Event starts at: 13.00. Event finishes at: 14.00.

May's Discussion: Compulsory Purchase Process and the Crichel Down RulesIs it Time to Re-Focus or Dispose of the Rules?

After weeks of speculation in September, the Government announced the cancellation of the Birmingham to Manchester leg of the HS2 project has meant there are many properties, land and interests that are surplus to requirements. The existing Crichel Down Rules require that surplus government land that had been acquired by, or under a threat of, CPO powers, is offered back to former owners, their successors or to sitting tenants.  

The rules take their name from Crichel Down which was compulsorily acquired in 1938 by the Air Ministry, as part of the war effort, and a promise made by Winston Churchill in 1941 that such land acquired would be returned to its owners when it was no longer required for the purpose for which it was bought. Although non-statutory, the rules are generally accepted by public bodies and are considered mandatory by all government departments and their agencies. The latest iteration of them are dated July 2019 and are available on the DLUHC website.  

The rules and the related guidance are complex and convoluted. Application of the rules requires detailed examination of the ministerial reporting lines of the acquiring body, tracing former owners after potentially decades, examining successors to deceased former owners and records of whether the land was offered on the market prior to acquisition. Different guidance applies to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and some acquisitions in Wales. The time limits for offering land back differ for agricultural land acquired between January 1932 and October 1992 compared to agricultural land acquired after 1992. No such difference applies to other land. 

The rules add a significant administrative burden to the disposal of land acquired compulsorily which has since become surplus to requirements. Is it time to have a good look at these historic rules and see if they remain effective in the 21st century?



  • What is the purpose the rules are seeking to achieve; and who are they trying to protect? 
  • Has the balance between returning land potentially decades after it was acquired and the administrative burden on scarce public sector resources changed in the 21st century?  
  • Should the rules be abolished and replaced with an open market offering of surplus land. Will this give interested former owners a fair chance to re-acquire?
  • Should the Rules be tightened up – exclude blight notices and non-ag land? Exclude land with development potential? Exclude tenants? 
  • Should the remaining rules be more clearly applicable – all land acquired under CPO/threat of CPO regardless of acquiring body? 
  • Should a streamlined set of rules be made statutory?
  • Should the problem be tackled at source with tighter controls on compulsory land acquisition in advance of robust scheme design? 
  • Would implementation of the temporary powers in the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 help?