Case law update: Upholding a Compulsory Purchase Order made on derelict property

Appeal under the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) (Scotland) Act 1947 and the Land Compensation (Scotland) Act 1973 by John Mowbray against The Scottish Ministers and Fife Council.

Councils are entitled to made compulsory purchase orders, to acquire properties which have been left derelict by their owners. Provided that proper procedures have been followed, the owners cannot overturn these orders.

Appeal proceedings were raised following concerns by neighbours as to the derelict state of a house and garden in Leslie, Fife.  The property is an early 19th century C-listed end terrace house, which had been unoccupied for some years when proceedings were raised.

Mr Mowbray had bought the house in 1981 and since then no obvious steps had been taken to maintain it and it therefore became increasingly derelict.  In 2006 Fife Council made a Compulsory Purchase Order ("CPO") to acquire ownership of the property. Mr Mowbray lodged an objection, arguing that the Council had no right to acquire his property, and the Scottish Ministers appointed a reporter to carry out an inquiry into his objection.

The reporter found that the Council was correct to pursue the CPO as the only practicable way forward to ensure the restoration and occupation of the property.  The Scottish Ministers confirmed the CPO and it came into operation in 2013.

Mr Mowbray lodged a statutory appeal. His main arguments were that:

  • the way in which the reporter conducted the inquiry amounted to a contravention of his right to a fair hearing in terms of the Human Rights Act;
  • the reporter did not take account of all relevant material;
  • it was improper for the reporter to make an unaccompanied site visit; and
  • he was never made aware that the property was a listed building.

The Court was not persuaded that there was any force to Mr Mowbray's complaints about the reporter's recommendation or the Scottish Ministers' decision and held that the reporter did everything required of him.  He focused on the Council's primary reason for promoting the order, namely the state of the property and he found it was having an adverse impact on the street, and was seriously affecting the residential amenity of neighbouring properties.  It was held that he was correct to focus on the state of the property, and his finding could not properly be challenged. The Court indicated that Mr Mowbray's grounds of appeal disclosed nothing more than a dissatisfaction with the reporter's conclusion.

Mr Mowbray's appeal was held to have no merit, and it was refused.  The Council was entitled to acquire the property by the CPO, for which the correct procedure had been followed.