Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) are used to acquire title to land in areas where various developments are due to take place.

When are compulsory purchase orders used?

When a large scale development is taking place, such as a town centre development, a rail link or a motorway, there will be instances where local authorities will need to purchase all the land in question and the current landowner may not wish to sell.

In these circumstances CPOs are by the local authority to buy the land without the owner’s consent. However, the local authority must be able to first demonstrate that there is a compelling case for taking the land.

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 states that the local authority must think that the development, re-development or improvement is likely to contribute to the promotion or improvement of the economic, social or environmental well-being of their area.


The property owner has the right to be awarded compensation, which will cover the value of the property and land, the cost of buying another property and moving, as well as obtaining professional advice, for example from a solicitor and surveyor.

Serving notice

A CPO can be exercised either by serving a notice to treat or executing a general vesting declaration.

A notice to treat is a formal request from a local authority to agree a price for a property, whereas a general vesting declaration is a formal procedure that gives a local authority the right to take over the ownership of property.

Enforcing a CPO

In many cases, the compensation will be agreed between the property owner and the local authority. However, there are instances where the local authority will need to take action to remove the occupants from the property.

There is no requirement for a further court action, as the CPO itself provides the authority for the High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) to act.

The process to enforce a CPO is very similar to that of a writ of possession.

However, it is worth noting that the CPO does not expire after execution. If the property is subsequently reoccupied, the CPO provides the authority for further enforcement action (unlike a writ of possession which expires after execution, when a writ of restitution is required if the property is reoccupied).

David Asker

David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance