The Government has decided to bury bad news today, announcing a new proposal for HS2 compensation on the same day as the HS2 Environmental Statement consultation analysis showed that more people left the form blank than supported HS2.
While the spin on compensation is that ‘new schemes’ are available, the Government has chosen today to re-announce schemes such as express purchase (a variation of compulsory purchase which came in when the route was safeguarded) and exceptional hardship which are already in operation, along with sale and rent back.
There will be a further consultation on other potential schemes which will be the sixth consultation on HS2 compensation since the scheme was announced in 2010. These proposed schemes, which would not be available in London, are: a Voluntary Purchase Scheme where people living between 60m and 120m from the line can apply for their house to be bought; a Cash Payment of 10% of the value of your home if you do not want to move (from £30k to £100k) for people living between 60m and 120m from the line; a Homeowner Payment which would entitle owner-occupiers to a cash payment if they live between 120 metres and 300 metres from the line in rural areas from £7,500 to £22,500, depending on how close the route is to the property.
Additionally, the existing Exceptional Hardship Scheme will be rebranded as the ‘Need to Sell’ Scheme for all areas, with the same criteria being employed that has seen only 26% of applicants being paid out so far on Phase 1 (141 out of 536).
The greatest bit of spin is that the Government intend to draw up a ‘Residents’ Charter’ with the appointment of an ‘Independent Residents Commissioner’, who will report directly to Chair of HS2 Ltd Sir David Higgins, and produce reports for HS2 Ltd. Commenting on this, Higgins said:
“Fairness, transparency and efficiency have to be at the heart of everything we do. People rightly want to know what they’re entitled to and how quickly we will deal with their claims. The new Charter and Commissioner will provide residents with the confidence that we’ll deal with each case clearly, fairly and as fast as we can.”
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:
“Trying to bury the bad news which saw more people accidentally send their form in blank than say they supported HS2 in the latest consultation, Government have tried to spin a new compensation deal, by re-announcing schemes already in place and saying there will be a sixth consultation on more discretionary proposals, after only 26% of those who have currently applied under the EHS scheme have been paid out in four years. They even have the gall to say someone who will report directly to HS2 Ltd will be called an ‘Independent Residents Commissioner’. This is disgraceful spin. No-one has any faith in what the Government is saying, and there is only one proposal which should ever be considered for compensation, compensating everyone for the full value of their loss, no matter where they live, and these proposals miss thousands of people facing blight. If the Government cannot afford to compensate people fully, they cannot afford HS2.”
“If the Government were serious about their compensation proposals, they would be contained within the Hybrid Bill and not a discretionary scheme which could be turned off at any time. To announce this scheme just before the HS2 Hybrid Bill, but saying there will be another consultation, which will be the sixth one on HS2 compensation is just a cynical ploy to try and buy off opponents, and it will not work.”
Penny Gaines, Chair of Stop HS2 said:
“HS2 Ltd now say they are going to appoint an independent Residents Commissioner which will report to the HS2 Ltd board. Unfortunately for the people affected, HS2 Ltd have persistently ignored and failed to address the many issues which have been raised at Community Forums, roadshows and on other occasions. A commissioner reporting to the HS2 board provides no reassurance whatsoever, because it is HS2 Ltd who have themselves been ignoring the many legitimate concerns of affected residents.”