Authorities proposing to compulsorily acquire an interest in land, or a right over it, now have a right to enter and survey or value the land. This right is contained in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Housing and Planning Act) and came into force on 13 July 2016. Owners or occupiers who obstruct the exercise of the right could find themselves facing fines of up to £1,000.
The rights of owners and occupiers are taken into account, and the acquiring authority must comply with the following:
An owner or occupier could be fined up to £1,000 for obstructing someone exercising their powers to enter and survey land without a reasonable excuse.
A person exercising the power of entry could be fined, imprisoned for up to two years, or both, if they disclose confidential information obtained during the entry and survey. Confidential information means information that constitutes a trade secret, or the disclosure of which would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person.
This harsh penalty should give owners and occupiers some comfort that permitting entry will not prejudice their commercial interests. However, it will not remove the inconvenience that may be caused by investigative works.
Other changes brought in by the Housing and Planning Act include:
With all of the commentary prior to the enactment of the Housing and Planning Act, provisions relating to compulsory purchase have largely slipped under the radar . Whilst the government has recently consulted on changes to the compensation regime in relation to compulsory purchase, there appears to have been little consultation on these provisions. Fines for landowners who obstruct surveys etc will probably do little to deal with what is often a difficult situation for landowners who are opposed to the prospect of a compulsory purchase. In addition, owners/occupiers of land often have statutory obligations that are potentially prejudiced by entry on land by third parties.
These obligations are often ignored by acquiring authorities when they serve notice on landowners requiring entry. The extension to statutory undertakers of powers to override easements and restrictive covenants is interesting but unless the definition of statutory undertaker is widened, the companies that often provide the infrastructure are not those that could be properly construed as statutory undertakers.
Contributor: Alexandra Holsgrove Jones
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at July 2016. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions