The Government have published their response to the report of the Lords HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee. Whilst the report from the Lords was disappointingly light on its’ recommendations, even going so far as to criticise the Woodland Trust for lamenting the proposed destruction of so many ancient woodlands, because HS2 Ltd had made design changes which have the side-effect of saving one of them, Government has dismissed their main concerns.
Without doubt the biggest issue proposed by the Lords Hybrid Bill Committee was that people in urban areas should qualify for the same levels of compensation as those in rural areas. Government has declined to take them up on this proposal, but is saying that there will be a new scheme available. However, this doesn’t seem like it would be as available as the Lords suggested because Government will only go as far as saying they will buy out people whom experience a construction impact so severe that they would “become eligible for temporary rehousing for a period or periods in excess of three months.”
The other issues regarding compensation is that HS2 Ltd have given a commitment that, from today, they will start publishing what they have accepted as ‘compelling reasons to sell’ in regard to accepting applications under the ‘Need to Sell’ scheme.
Also concerning urban areas, the committee showed great concern about the plans for Euston station, and the impact there would be on Network Rail operations in what is left of the station after HS2 Ltd have had their way with it. The problem is that HS2 Ltd will make a mess of it and say that NR will have to do work as a result of the HS2 work, but there is no timetable or budget for this work. Government have confirmed that this remains the case, stating:
“Additional funding for subsequent stages of work will of course be considered once this initial feasibility programme has been completed and options identified.”
Despite this, there will be some relief for the residents of Camden regarding the potential station footprint, and of course others up and down the line, as Government have conceded that they will not try and reintroduce Clause 48 to the Bill, which would give the Secretary of State the right to compulsorily purchase land and property anywhere he or she felt fit, if it could be used for ‘regeneration resulting from HS2’.
Totally after the horse had bolted, instead of instructing HS2 Ltd to stop doing this during the process itself, the Committee bemoaned the fact that many petitioners got last minute information from Government ahead of hearings, with Government somehow blaming victims, in that they would only provide information Government would somehow need, as hearing dates approached.
Spectacularly misses the point: the Select Committee were pointing out that HS2’s representatives wait for the last moment to negotiate with petitioners. As part of this issue, HS2 Ltd say they will ‘continue’ to operate a 24 hour helpline, despite the fact their helpline isn’t 24 hours, and if you do ring them up, they just tell you to send them an email.