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Make Compulsory Purchase easier in cases of irresponsible private ownership

Comment 3rd August 2010

In cases where a private owner has clearly abandoned a building or is irresponsible in its ownership, create a fast-track through the CPO process. Two examples

1. Hastings Pier has been abandoned by its owners, Ravenclaw,  a company registered in Panama since it was declared unsafe by the local council in 2006. IN response to a big campaign by the Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust, the council has at last agreed to compulsory purchase and transfer, but the CPO process will take many months if not years and yet everyone wants it sorted now (including the funders who have deadlines to spend the money). 

2. Plymouth Palace Theatre is owned by someone who is in prison for dealing drugs at the theatre. The police can't confiscate it because they can't prove he bought it with 'illicit' funds. The local trust wants to take it on and restore it. The council is scared of the long process of CPO.

There are many more examples of this situation which the Development Trusts Association is investigating at the moment 

Why does this matter?

The rights of private ownership are very important and should, of course, be protected.

However, when an owner is clearly acting irresponsibly towards a building and/or has abandoned it, and if that building is particularly important to the community, the town, or the nation, then it should be possible to move faster through the legal process, especially if funding available to deal with the building could be lost otherwise. 

This is also relevant to the development of the Community Right to Buy policy. We need some Government Legal Service lawyers to work out how to create a streamlined process in these circumstances.

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