HS2 Ltd have today (16th January 2015) launched new compensation schemes for those affected by Phase 1 of HS2. The schemes, which were meant to have been in place by Autumn 2014 appear to be unchanged from the plans proposed in the 2014 consultation, with the ‘Need to Sell’ scheme simply being a rebranding of the previous ‘Exceptional Hardship Scheme’.
The Express Purchase and Rural Support Zones allow for HS2 to buy properties within 60 metres and 120 metres from the centre-line between the proposed tracks in rural areas which do not have tunnels. Homeowner payment zones, where people living up to 300 metres from the centre-line could receive payments between £22,500 and £7,500 will not be in place until after the Bill is passed into law, which is expected to be another two years at least.
Most controversially, the ‘Need to Sell’ scheme for people living more than 120 metres from the centre line is unchanged from the proposal which was consulted on in 2014, and is effectively a rebranding of the Exceptional Hardship Scheme, which has so far only paid out on 40 of the 158 applications (25%). This is despite the fact the HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee stated that they wanted to make suggestions on how to improve the proposed scheme. On 26th November, Robert Syms the chair of the committee made this statement:
“On compensation, we request that HS2 give us sight of the proposed Need to Sell scheme as soon as possible, so that we can review the guidance and criteria and make suggestions for improvement. These suggestions might include a change of name for the scheme and the scheme should include a way of obtaining advance clearance to deal with situations such as those of the Franklins, from whom we heard yesterday. We accept HS2’s offer to prepare a paper on the property bond proposal and we await that with interest.”
On 16th December Mr Syms reiterated:
“The plan at the moment is for the launch of the scheme sometime in the middle to end of January on both the Need to Sell and the Voluntary Purchase Scheme. At least that should give us an opportunity to look at it and to have some input before final decisions are taken.”
It had been widely believed that the committee felt the term ‘Want to Sell’ would be more appropriate for the scheme, and that the requirement for people applying for compensation, to have first tried to sell their home on the open market, should be relaxed. People seeking compensation have found that many estate agents, knowing blighted properties would not sell, have asked for marketing fees up front. Instead of relaxing these rules, HS2 now say that people must have sought a “reasonable range of marketing proposals from more than one recognised estate agent.”, and still would have to have their property on the market for at least 3 months without having received an offer of 85% or more of the asking price.
Whilst people applying for the old EHS scheme had to demonstrate ‘financial hardship’, this has now been rebranded as an ‘unreasonable burden’. Applicants will have to qualify under five criteria, which include having a ‘compelling reason to sell’ for reasons such as moving or losing employment, divorce, illness or retirement, and that those issues would create an ‘unreasonable burden’ to the homeowner within three years of the application.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin responded:
“Yet again, we have another case of ‘consult and ignore’ from HS2 Ltd, as looking back at what was proposed in the consultation, nothing seems to have changed and the proposals are a long way from the ‘full and fair’ compensation schemes which were promised by Government. However, it seems that this time, they haven’t just ignored the thousands of people trapped in homes blighted by HS2, but they seem to have also ignored the committee of MPs who have heard evidence from dozens of people saying they do not qualify for compensation. It will be very interesting to see how the committee react to this.”
Penny Gaines, Chair of Stop HS2 added;
“There was a lot of ‘we’ve listened to what you say, but we’re ignoring it’ in the document. It’s quite clear that this was just another faux consultation, aimed at making the government look like it was listening to what people had to say with no intention to make any changes to their plans.”