The City of Birmingham chose the Elan Valley for the source of its new water supply. But it wasn’t quite as simple as that. They couldn’t just start building dams in the valley as they didn’t own the land!
Soon an Act of Parliament was passed, arranging for 180 square kilometres of land to be subject to compulsory purchase. This meant the landowners had no choice. They had to sell their land, but the Act of Parliament ensured that they received a fair price.
Building work could begin… but the land wasn’t empty. There were only a few landowners, but the big estates were worked by tenant farmers and their families. Their houses, school and church were about to be submerged.
A new church was built above the water level at Nantgwyllt, but the local people lost their livelihoods and received no compensation.
As well as dams, many major infrastructure projects can involve compulsory purchase of land – city centre redevelopment, motorways, by-pass roads, high speed rail links, airport runways. These are always controversial since the people being forced to sell don’t always benefit from the project. I’m sure you can think of some other examples either local to you or in the national news.