Holmes & Hills Solicitors is currently advising and representing a number of property and land owners who are affected by the A12 Chelmsford to A120 Widening scheme, a project of Highways England. In this brief article Michael Harman, a specialist blight and Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) claim solicitor with a wealth of experience representing property and land owners affected by public development projects, discusses the large scale A12 project in East Anglia.
In October 2019 Highways England announced its preferred route for the first section of the widening scheme from junctions 19 (Boreham interchange) to junction 23 (Kelvedon South) of the A12. In late 2019 a public consultation was held on four potential routes between junctions 23 and 25 (Marks Tey). Those routes were to be considered further if the joint Braintree District and Colchester Borough Council Garden Community was given the “green light”.
However, in May 2020 a Planning Inspector made a recommendation that the Garden Village be removed from Braintree and Colchester’s joint Local Plan. As a result, Highways England have ruled out all of the 2019 consultation routes and have now reverted to its preferred route following an earlier 2017 consultation.
A further consultation is now planned to take place in 2021 concerning detailed designs for the original preferred route from 2017. Further information can be found here: https://highwaysengland.co.uk/our-work/east/a12-chelmsford-to-a120-widening-scheme/.
Following the consultation of the new preferred route planned for 2021 and due to this A12 project being a “Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project”, Highways England will seek a Development Consent Order (‘DCO’). The DCO will likely involve a public hearing and ultimately require approval from the Secretary of State for Transport before a DCO is made. If made, a DCO may follow as early as autumn/winter 2021, but more likely 2022, with Highways England stating an intention to start constructions works in 2023 or 2024.
Property and land becomes blighted when it is likely that all or part of a property or piece of land is likely to be the subject of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO). Due to the nature of projects that lead to compulsory purchases it is often widely known what properties will be affected by a project such as the A12 widening a material time before compulsory purchases are made. Such properties therefore lose value and will often become unsaleable long before Compulsory Purchase Orders are issued.
To provide for this situation and to save property owners having to wait to be issued with a Compulsory Purchase Order before being able to sell or release value from the property or land, owners can serve a Blight Notice on the authority likely to issue the CPO at some future date. Issuing a Blight Notice on the respective public authority (this being Highways England in the instance of the A12 Chelmsford to A120 Widening Scheme project) allows property owners to deal with matters according to their timescale as opposed to being at the mercy of the processes and timescales of the public authority, which can often be years.
Holmes & Hills Solicitors is currently advising a number of property and land owners likely or potentially affected by the preferred announced by Highways England. Some of these property and land owners have received correspondence from Highways England inviting a Blight Notice.
Holmes & Hills’ service to these clients includes advising on whether their property will be blighted and advising on negotiations and settlement in relation to consideration to be paid for property and land to be purchased by Highways England.
In some instances there will be a case to be made where property or land is unlikely to be subject to any future Compulsory Purchase Order but is likely to be blighted by the development to take place, owing to its proximity to the proposed development. This is a complex area and there will be many property and land owners that would feel their property is blighted but where it would not be.
Where part of a property or piece of land is likely to be subject to a future purchase order, it is likely to be the case that the owner will be able to make a claim for Blight relating to the property and land they will retain.
Issues of Blight and compulsory purchases are surrounded by complex legal issues and there is likely to be material negotiation and representation required in order to achieve the most favourable financial settlement for a property and land owner.
Holmes & Hills’ Planning and Development Team, which is one of the largest teams of specialist Planning Law solicitors in East Anglia, has a wealth of experience representing property owners in submitting Blight Notices on public authorities and representing them in negotiations and settlement surrounding compulsory purchases.