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New guidance has been given to local authorities by the high court on the extent to which compulsory purchase order...
New guidance has been given to local authorities by the high court on the extent to which compulsory purchase orders can be used to prevent property owners allowing their property to become run down.

It came in a ruling by deputy Judge Malcolm Spence in a case in which Kingston Upon Thames LBC took compulsory purchase moves in respect of a house which had been allowed to run down over a period of 20 years.

The council claimed they were entitled to act as they did to save the character and appearance of the neighbourhood.

However, it was argued on behalf of the owner of the property that an order in such circumstances could not be said to have been made for proper 'planning purposes'.

Rejecting those claims, the judge held that compulsory purchase could be used to protect the character of an area.

Referring to the backing given to the council by an inspector who conducted a public inquiry into the matter he said: 'It is clear that the inspector and the secretary of state considered the intended purpose of the acquisition, namely the arrest of the neglect and lack of maintenance leading to continuing decay and real harm to the character and appearance of the neighbourhood, to be a planning purpose.'

Refusing to quash the secretary of state's backing for the council moves, he said there had been no error of law and he considered the council had acted in the public interest.

He said he was also satisfied that the order did not constitute a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects people from interference with their right to peaceful enjoyment of their home and possessions.

The case was later described by Christopher Wright of solicitors, Christopher Wright & Co, who acted for the home owner as 'unique'.

He said: 'A local authority has attempted to use its powers to enforce a property to be put into good repair. They have compulsorily purchased the property and I think this is the first time this has occurred. There is no other reported case.

'We are concerned because if you give the term 'planning purpose' its widest meaning, which the judge appears to have done, where does it stop?

'Do you say if somebody paints their house pink in a road where every other house is white that there can be a compulsory purchase order?'

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