The Crichel Down Rules

The following Planning practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • The Crichel Down Rules
  • Legislation/guidance
  • Importance of adhering to the Rules
  • To whom do the Crichel Down Rules apply?
  • England/Wales
  • Land to which the Crichel Down Rules apply
  • Who can buy back the land?
  • Former owners given first opportunity to purchase
  • 'Material change'
  • Dwelling tenancies
  • More...

The Crichel Down Rules

The Crichel Down Rules (the Rules) require that in certain circumstances, surplus government land that was acquired by, or under a threat of, compulsion, is offered back to former owners, their successors, or to sitting tenants. See: Compulsory purchase orders—overview for information on compulsory purchase orders generally.


The Rules are non-statutory arrangements.

The government has published guidance on the Rules for local authorities in England.

Importance of adhering to the Rules

Although the Rules are non-statutory, the courts have emphasised the importance of adhering to them. They should not be thought of as voluntary.

In Wilkins, the judge held that former landowners had a legitimate expectation that the Rules would be applied to a proposed disposal.

The Rules should be closely followed by disposing authorities, in light of the potential for challenge on judicial review and/or human rights grounds.

To whom do the Crichel Down Rules apply?

The rules apply in a mandatory manner to all government departments, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies in England and other organisations in England (such as health service bodies) which are subject to a power of direction by a minister. They also apply to land in Wales acquired and still owned by a UK government department.

Government guidance recommends that the Rules are followed by:

  1. local authorities and other statutory bodies which are not subject to a ministerial power of direction (such

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