HS2 Compensation - January 2015

Brian Thompson  |  Published: Jan 22nd 2015

The Latest Government compensation scheme for HS2 – Good or more of the same?

The Government has had another attempt to help communities like Wendover that are blighted by HS2. After so many attempts you might have thought they ought to get it right.

Those of you with good memories will remember Philip Hammond, then Secretary of State for Transport, stood at the dispatch box in December 2010 and said:

“Where a project that is in the national interest imposes significant financial loss on individuals, it is right and proper that they should be compensated fairly for that loss …”

Therefore we are deeply disappointed that the Government has failed to live up its promises to help those unable to sell their properties due to HS2.

According to HS2AA there are 172,000 households are within 1km of Phase 1 of the HS2 line from London to Birmingham (with 43,000 within 500m) and yet the schemes put forward by the Department for Transport today will be likely to compensate barely 3000 homeowners. This is despite advice from their own advisors (PWC) on the amount of the blight caused by HS2 that showed that those living up to 500m from the line suffer average losses of 20%.

So the compensation package just launched continues to restrict applicants by distance and by circumstance, meaning it is available to only a few. More importantly it does nothing to address the issue of those who want or need to move before HS2 is finished and do not live close enough to the line or meet certain criteria.

The Voluntary Purchase and Cash Offer Scheme is only available to those living within 120m of the line in rural areas, excluding all those living greater than 120m away. The relatively small amount of compensation on offer does nothing to compensate for the actual blight incurred or actually help anyone move. It certainly will not cover the level of discounting required if someone actually does have to move house.

The Need to Sell Scheme appears little more than a rebranding of the previous deeply unpopular Exceptional Hardship Scheme. It still requires compliance with certain criteria such as illness, job relocation or divorce. The government seem to be intent on penalizing normal people who just want to move for whatever reason – they appear to be restricting people’s rights to enjoy their property/assets as they wish.

For those who don’t fall within these rules, they don’t get anything and have no option but to suffer the losses, if they can find a buyer. Why they have not brought in a property bond scheme to free up the market for blighted properties is anyone’s guess. This has now gone on for over 4 years and they are still asking the communities along the path of HS2 to subsidize this national infrastructure project.

So has Philip Hammond or this government delivered on their promises? – the answer is No. Let’s hope the Select Committee are looking forward to addressing this.

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