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‘Falls well short of what is required’ SAAVA’s view on the Compulsory Purchase Regime

20/10/15

The Scottish Agricultural Arbiters and Valuers Association (SAAVA) believes that the consultation paper produced by the Scottish Law Commission on reform of the Compulsory Purchase Regime in Scotland falls well short of what is required to protect the interests of Scotland’s landowners and tenants.

Representing over 200 professionals who advise and act on issues impacting rural and agricultural businesses and property, the Association has consulted with members on what they believe is a ‘cumbersome’ document which doesn’t go far enough to protect the interests of landowners and farmers.

In a 65-­‐page response, SAAVA makes the case that Compulsory Purchase should be achieved by negotiation with agreement, in advance, on the price and when monies will be paid.

SAAVA highlights a number of issues that the Law Commission does not propose to deal with including blight, which makes it extremely difficult for owners to dispose of their properties in the vicinity of any CPO scheme. SAAVA has urged the Law Commission to widen the circumstances within which a Blight Notice can be served to protect those who may not be able to dispose of their principal asset prior to a compulsory acquisition.

It also lobbies for compensation to be paid on the basis of full loss. The statute has, on the one hand, recognised that blight does not stop at the boundaries of a scheme, but has limited the amount of compensation should no land be taken. This, the Association believes is grossly unfair as it doesn’t compensate for the effects of CPO such as loss of a view, privacy or an amenity. It also urges that there should be an obligation for the acquiring authority to reduce the effects of its public work by providing sound insulation and other mitigating works.

SAAVA raised concerns about the lack of control by the acquiring authority on the CPO, which is increasingly put out to tender to a commercial organisation on a design and build basis. This means that the winning contractor has practical and effective control of the acquired land for the construction period and thereafter for maintenance periods of up to 30 years thereby relinquishing the acquiring authority with control of design and implementation. This not only gives rise to quality issues, but also takes away any opportunities for the landowner to agree any variation on the scheme after the contract is let.

SAAVA makes the case for claimants’ costs to be considered before confirmation of a CPO and refers to the case of Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) that caused uncertainty from announcing the route in 2006 until the vesting date in 2013. The ‘roadshow’ for improvements to the A96 has ‘blighted’ properties along this route. Any revised legislation should, believe SAAVA, contain clear duties on the acquiring authority towards landowners during the design, promotion and implementation of any CPO scheme.

The Association also highlights the impact of taxation and calls for the reform of the Bishopsgate Principal that the Association believes would better serve the tenant. Compensation should be based on the reasonable expectation as to the period that the business would remain in occupation according to SAAVA.

James Dick, SAAVA President, believes the report doesn’t go far enough to reflect contemporary circumstances.

James said: “New legislation should provide that any CPD should be proportional to the need and seek only the means that are less intrusive to those who could be affected. This should be enshrined in law with any temporary possession a matter for commercial negotiation not compulsion, with clear state of when the land is to be returned and a defined timescale.

“We are also concerned at the lack of compensation for land taken by water pipes and sewers in Scotland and are particularly uneasy by Scottish Water’s refusal to accept liability for damage caused by bursts in sewage pipes installed under compulsory powers.

“While we welcome the Reform of the Compulsory Purchase Regime in Scotland, we believe this falls well short of what is required and would urge the Law Commission to go further to protect the interests of our members’ clients.”