The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) continues to receive reports of Acquiring Authorities (those with the right to exercise compulsory purchase powers) behaving unreasonably and unethically in their treatment of the occupiers of the land they require access to for various projects.
“Be it for high-speed rail, solar energy farms or cabling to support offshore wind farms, the projects vary but the attitude of the Acquiring Authorities seeking access over or the acquisition of land apparently does not, with increasing reports of bullying tactics across the board,” says TFA Senior Adviser, Caroline Foot.
Government guidance relating to the procedures for the compulsory acquisition of land states that Acquiring Authorities ‘should seek to acquire land by negotiation wherever practicable’. For long, linear schemes involving many plots of land, this may not be as easy (which is typical for cabling and railways for example), but negotiation is still indicated to be best practice.
The same guidance also encourages Acquiring Authorities to foster good-will and the use of alternative dispute resolution for those with concerns about the compulsory acquisition of their land; to save time and money for both parties and also ‘to reduce the stress which the process inevitably places on those whose properties are affected.’
However, some Acquiring Authorities appear to be ignoring this guidance completely, and perhaps even more worryingly they are even ignoring the regulations in some reported cases.
“TFA members across the country are experiencing this poor practice first-hand, and while the importance of some of these projects is acknowledged, their implementation should not be allowed to be at the expense of Britain’s farmers,” says Miss Foot.
The law allows for owners and occupiers to be treated and compensated fairly, but the procedures in place for owners and occupiers to raise legitimate concerns are expensive and time-consuming and therefore because the parties are reluctant to use these procedures, it enables the Acquiring Authorities to press on regardless of the devastating impact their schemes can have on the occupiers and their businesses.
“It makes a mockery of the system for Acquiring Authorities to be able to rely on not being taken to task for their unreasonable behaviour. It shows that something is broken if the procedures are in place, but they are not being used; not because they are not required, but because they are not fit for purpose,” says Miss Foot.
“Something must change so that owners and occupiers are treated fairly and in accordance with the law and guidance in this area. The dispute resolution procedures need to be reassessed so that they can be used effectively where necessary. The time, hassle and cost involved with raising a legitimate dispute should not allow Acquiring Authorities to bully their way through the process,” says Miss Foot.