Compulsory Acquisition of Land – What is it & What Does it Involve?

In simple terms, compulsory acquisition of land occurs when the government purchases part of or all of land that is held by landowners, tenants, businesses or license holders. But the actual process of compulsory acquisition is layered and often includes many stages. Understanding how land is compulsory acquired is important to gain insight into the different types of acquiring authorities, as well as know what your rights are if your land is being acquired.

This article will go over what compulsory acquisition of land is, the stages of compulsory acquisition, and what rights affected landowners have during the acquisition

What is Compulsory Acquisition?

Compulsory acquisition defines the act of a government body or acquiring authority acquiring land that is privately held by tenants, business owners or license holders. Usually compulsory acquisition of land is done in order to facilitate various infrastructure projects such as the building of new roads or new public transport infrastructure. 

Compulsory acquisitions are often disruptive to home and business owners but are usually necessary in order to improve infrastructure in a specific area and introduce new facilities to isolated regions. 

What Are the Stages of Compulsory Acquisition?

Compulsory acquisition of land is split into 3 stages:

Stage 1 – Early Planning

The early planning stage is the first stage in a compulsory acquisition and is usually undertaken solely by the acquiring authority without the knowledge of land owners who may be potentially affected. The project is conceptualised by the acquiring authority, and case studies on how the area could benefit from the project are conducted to demonstrate feasibility and justification of the project.

Stage 2 – Identifying Future Acquisitions

Once the project has been deemed feasible enough to proceed, the acquiring authority will place a public acquisition overlay (PAO) on the relevant land, the purpose of which is to tentatively reserve this portion of the land. The implementation of a PAO does not guarantee that the project will proceed. It is merely a planning control which reserves an area of land for potential acquisition in the future. 

During the PAO stage of compulsory acquisition of land, some landowners may be granted an opportunity to appeal if they are notified of a potential acquisition during this phase. However, in cases where the acquisition is urgent, the request to appeal the acquisition decision will be automatically denied. 

Stage 3 – Acquisition Commences

In the third stage, the formal acquisition by the acquiring authority commences and they will make contact with affected landowners. This is done in the form of a ‘notice of intention to acquire’ (NOIA). The NOIA informs affected land owners that their land is intended to be acquired within the next 2-6 months and will also provide details regarding the entitlements of affected landowners.

For residents and landowners, this is often the most stressful part of the compulsory acquisition of land. Following an NOIA, a ‘notice of acquisition’ will be issued, which acts as a formal notification that the affected land now belongs to the acquiring authority.

What Rights Do Landowners Have During Compulsory Acquisition?

Generally, once compulsory acquisition of land has been initiated, there is rarely anything that affected landowners can do to stop the process from going ahead. Affected landowners can make an appeal in some cases which can lead to alternative outcomes. Ultimately, the government can compulsorily acquire your land with or without the offer of voluntary purchase. 

Compulsory acquisition of land has adverse and often detrimental effects on homes, businesses and landowners. Knowing your full legal rights as well as the rights of acquiring authorities can help you navigate the process more smoothly and increase the likelihood of a favourable outcome.