When we talk about infrastructure investment, we hear a lot about compulsory acquisitions. Less often do we hear about Voluntary Purchase Schemes. What exactly are they? Why are they important? How do you get the right result with them?
Infrastructure projects & compulsory acquisition
Privately owned property is often compulsorily acquired for the greater benefit of the community. For example, if there’s a new infrastructure project – authorities have the legal right to compulsorily acquire property in its path. The private property’s owner is compensated for the property, plus expenses incurred along the way and, of course, the inconvenience of having their property acquired.
Most developed countries adopt this practice and it’s widely accepted as ‘the way it is done’. There are stringent legal processes around compulsory acquisitions, set out in legislation such as the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 1986. The rights of a property owner who loses even an inch of their property are clear.
But what happens to the owners next to the owner who gets acquired? The properties that remain either side of the infrastructure path? What rights do they have to compensation? Who protects their interests? Is it just tough luck to be adjoining the infrastructure path but not on it?
That’s where voluntary purchases schemes arise.
What are voluntary purchase schemes?
Government has recently begun to recognise the unfortunate circumstances property owners adjoining infrastructure paths can find themselves in.
Government has recently begun to recognise the unfortunate circumstances property owners adjoining infrastructure paths can find themselves in. They might not be facing compulsory acquisition, but they’re still impacted.
Voluntary purchases were born in 2013 during the Regional Rail Link Project. Three property owners were offered the opportunity to sell their property to the Regional Rail Link Authority, even though their land had not been identified as required for the project. The Authority recognised the detrimental effect caused by not acquiring the properties.
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