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Factfind: Could compulsory purchase be used for the maternity hospital and what would it cost?

The St. Vincent’s site is the preferred site for the hospital.

THE USE OF a compulsory purchase order (CPO) has been mooted as a possible solution to the controversy over the proposed new National Maternity Hospital.

The controversy stems from the fact that the site of the new hospital is owned by religious order the Sisters of Charity. The order is to be given ownership of the hospital in return for providing the site.

Labour TD Alan Kelly has suggested that a CPO could be used by the government to take control of the site. The idea was also raised by former master of the NMH Dr Peter Boylan.

But is a CPO feasible in this case, and how do they happen?

What is a CPO?

A compulsory purchase order is a legal function that allows statutory bodies take possession of land or property for the common good without the agreement of the owner.

The owner of the land is compensated for the transfer and a guiding principle of the transfer is that the owner is left in the same financial position as before the transaction.

CPOs can be used for a variety of reasons and are most associated with infrastructure projects like the building of roads, railways or urban development.

CPOs are not final and objections can be raised.

So how does one take place?

The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland has a detailed guide to how a CPO takes place.

It explains that after the statutory body decides to make a CPO, the affected parties will be notified of the decision and newspaper notices will also be published.

The public notices will state that the CPO is to be put on public display and is to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála.

The notices sent to the owner or occupier must provide information about how and where to object to the proposed purchase.

097 St Vincents Hospital 90509256_90509280 The St Vincents Hospital campus in Dublin. Source: RollingNews.ie

If no objections are raised, then An Bord Pleanála can grant the CPO.

However, affected parties are permitted to lodge objections and if they do so a Public Local Inquiry is held.

Following this process, the ultimate decision to confirm, amend or reject the CPO is made by An Bord Pleanála.

cpo A CPO notice in DLR County Council. Source: dlrcoco.ie

This decision can of course be further challenged in the courts which lengthens the process further.

A recent high-profile CPO case involving IDA Ireland and a Kildare homeowner was concluded in the Supreme Court after four years.

What happens then?

If it gets to the point when a CPO is awarded, the owner of the property lodges a claim for compensation.

This compensation is set at the market value for the land and the owner is entitled to carry out their own assessment of the value.

The value of any retained land that may be negatively affected by the transfer is also included in the price of compensation.

If the amount of compensation is disputed it enters an arbitration phase before the final valuation is set.

Obstacles in the case of the National Maternity Hospital?

There are several obstacles that would have to be overcome if a CPO was to be used in the case that is currently being debated.

A new ownership plan would have to be devised so that the CPO could be made by a statutory body, most likely the HSE.

This of course would mean that the hospital would likely be a HSE hospital and not a voluntary public hospital as is planned. A significant policy u-turn.

hospital Minister for Health Simon Harris looking at a model of St Vincent's University Hospital. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

The second obstacle would be of course the cost of the purchase. RTÉ recently put a nearby 8.64 plot of land on sale for €75 million.

The land required for the new hospital has been estimated at about half that, so the land purchase could be at least €37.5 million.

However, its purchase would likely have a negative effect on the value of the remaining St Vincent’s Hospital lands so the overall compensation figure could be greater still.

Reasonable legal fees are also borne by the authority acquiring the land.

The cost of actually building the hospital has been estimated at €300 million.

Read: ‘I’m sorry it’s come to this but I did try to warn you’ – Texts between hospital bosses as row deepens >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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