In brief - We explore the ongoing developments of the Suburban Rail Loop and highlight the importance of legal guidance for landowners and occupiers navigating the compulsory acquisition process.

It was recently announced that the Australian government has commissioned an independent 90-day review of the $120 billion invested in infrastructure projects within Victoria. The review comes after projects were left without adequate funding or resources in the face of a backlog of debt and unforeseen budget deficits. In light of this, projects such as the Airport Rail Link and North East Link have been suspended. 

Notwithstanding these other projects being put on hold, preliminary works for the Suburban Rail Loop (Project) began in June 2022 and are now underway to deliver a 90-kilometre rail line linking major train services through Melbourne's middle suburbs. As part of the delivery of the Project, land acquisition is required. Part of this process involves interests in the relevant land being vested in the Suburban Rail Loop Authority (Authority). 

As the Project has progressed, we have acted for several landowners, tenants, and business owners with legal or equitable interests in land spanning from Cheltenham to Box Hill and served with a formal Notice of Acquisition. 

For landowners and occupiers facing compulsory acquisition, it is important to seek legal representation to gain a greater understanding of:

  • their rights and obligations under the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 1986 (LACA)
  • the relevant information and documentation required for the process
  • how to maximise the compensation they may be able to claim from the Authority, including professional costs and expenses incurred during the process. 

Along that train of thought, landowners should be aware of the following items that may be claimed under Part 4 of the LACA in the event that their land has been compulsorily acquired:

  • Market value of the land – the amount that a willing but not anxious purchaser would have paid for that interest
  • Special value – the value of any pecuniary advantage in addition to market value which is incidental to ownership or occupation of the land
  • Severance – applies to land which is only partially acquired by the Authority and payable where the value of the balance of the land is reduced as a result of being severed from the acquired land
  • Loss attributable to disturbance – any pecuniary loss suffered by the claimant as a natural, direct and reasonable consequence of the acquisition under the LACA (i.e. business loss claim etc)
  • Solatium – any intangible and non-pecuniary disadvantages that have resulted from the acquisition which is calculated up to 10% of the market value of the land.

Claimants are also entitled to reimbursement of any reasonable legal, valuation and other professional expenses that are incurred as a result of the acquisition.

As the Project continues, we anticipate more formal Notices of Acquisition will be issued over the coming months in order to stay on track for completion in 2035. 

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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