No Margin For Error – CPO Claim Limitation Period
In Land and Estate Developments UK Ltd v Nottingham City Council , the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has provided guidance on the calculation of the fine margins concerning the limitation period for compulsory purchase order (‘CPO’) references of disputed compensation. The Tribunal found that the Tribunal Procedure (Upper Tribunal) (Lands Chamber) Rules 2010 (the ‘Rules’) do not override or affect the broader provisions of the Compulsory Purchase (Vesting Declarations) Act 1981 (the ‘1981 Act’) for the purposes of calculating the limitation period for CPO compensation claims.
Facts of the case
The claimant owned a long leasehold interest in land and buildings in Nottingham. The property was affected by the Nottingham Express Transit System, and the claimant brought a claim for compensation for temporary and then permanent acquisition by the acquiring authority, Nottingham City Council. The claim was for just over £1.3 million. The claimant emailed a notice of reference and supporting documents to the Tribunal at 17:08 on 30 June 2020.
The Council contested that the last day and time for filing the notice was 17:00 on 30 June 2020, relying on Rule 12(1) of the Rules which states that ‘an act required by these Rules, a practice direction or a direction to be done on or by a particular day must be done by 5pm on that day‘.
Decision of the Tribunal
The vesting date was 1 July 2014, which meant that the land was vested in the acquiring authority throughout that entire day. That was also the first full day on which time began to run. It followed that time expired at midnight on 30 June 2020, not at 17:00 as provided for by Rule 12(1). Rule 28(1) required the compensation proceedings to ‘be started by way of reference‘, but set no time limit for making the reference.
It was held that the Rules did not override the 1981 Act, which does not prescribe a specific deadline. Therefore, the notice of reference needed only to be delivered before midnight of the last day and the Tribunal’s judgment was in favour of the claimant.
The source of the limitation period for making a reference of a CPO claim to the Tribunal depends on whether the acquiring authority chooses to use a general vesting declaration (‘GVD’), or a notice to treat (‘NTT’), to implement the CPO.
Where a GVD is used, the limitation period for making a reference of a CPO claim to the Tribunal is outlined in the 1981 Act. S.10(3) states that the limitation period for filing a notice of reference to ‘the Tribunal’ shall be 6 years from the date at which the person claiming compensation, or a person under whom he derives title, first knew, or could reasonably be expected to have known, of the vesting of the interest by virtue of Part III of this Act.’
Where a NTT is used, a 6 year limitation period also applies; although in that case the limitation period derives from s.9 of the Limitation Act 1980. Hillingdon LBC v ARC Ltd (No 2)  6 WLUK 397 is the authority most commonly cited in the application of that limitation period, and when an acquiring authority may be estopped from relying on a limitation defence.
Limitation periods are hard-edged cut-offs which have a significant effect on the remedies available to the parties to a dispute. For CPO compensation claims the limitation period revolves around the reference of a claim to the Tribunal. Failing to make the reference in time, or entering into a suitable standstill agreement with an acquiring authority, is a risk that any CPO claimant should have firmly in mind as they approach that cut-off.
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