HS2 Ltd ambitiously set out to acquire by Compulsory Purchase the largest swathes of land & property interests in Britain since World War 2, but like with everything else, they’re not doing very well.
On Phase 1 of the route between Euston and Birmingham the National Audit Office identified around 18,600 land interests. Phase 2a & 2b, despite each yet to receive Royal Assent, have blighted many thousands more landowners & businesses for a number of years now.
Whilst HS2 Ltd have been engaging with landowners we are hearing of many cases where that engagement has been very much less than satisfactory. It’s concerning that HS2 Ltd really do seem to have a big problem in paying out the proper and legally due levels of Compensation and seem to drag their feet at every opportunity. Recent Ministerial and Parliamentary statements and answers do nothing but add to this concern. Whilst Andrew Stephenson MP, the HS2 Minister, and Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd’s Chief Executive, told Parliamentary Committee’s respectively that “80% of property required for Phase 1 had been purchased/acquired”, these statements wherever quickly contradicted by Baroness Vere in a House of Lords Written Answer where she confirmed only around two hundred landowners had seen full & final settlements made of their Claims. Something clearly doesn’t add up here!
One of the main principles of a CPO Claim is that of “equivalence”, a claimant should be placed in no better or worse position (in financial terms) after the acquisition than they were prior to the acquisition. It’s a pretty simple principle really. So why do HS2 Ltd seem to be getting it so wrong? One can only assume that they simply do not, and have never had, sufficient funds to pay. Thousands of landowners have needlessly and illegally suffered as a result. Each and every one should have expected HS2 Ltd to have acted in accord with the Compensation Code, the reality though has been rather different.
Advance Payments to landowners should have been calculated based on 90% of the Acquiring Authorities assessment on value. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Red Book, the Valuation Manual, should have been the basis HS2 Ltd used in their calculations. Regrettably HS2 Ltd look to have rather made payments conveniently fit to their budget. Landowners continue to suffer anxiety, stress, worry and hardship in trying to get HS2 Ltd to an appropriate settlement and that is just plain wrong.
Whilst the Upper House of The Lands Tribunal is out of reach for many due to likely cost & years of delay, Alternative Dispute Resolution is, in theory, an option for many smaller landowners. HS2 Ltd however have only allowed three, yes three, landowners to go down this route so far. That’s crazy, why would HS2 Ltd not want to see as many cases dealt with as soon as practically possible? Many people are therefore somewhere in a dark limbo wondering just how the dickens to deal with an Acquiring Authority determined to stick by Advanced Payments that are increasingly being exposed as bogus and, very possibly, legally negligent.
We hear of abuse of Non Disclosure Agreements, of bullying, threats, needless delays and excuses from HS2 Ltd. Landowners should not be treated like that. People just need to be able to move on with their lives and should not have to go through the stress and anguish of years of bickering with an Acquiring Authority that plainly has little interest in the lives of those it touches.
In May we saw the Public Accounts Committee finally begin to confront HS2 Ltd and The Department of Transport. Misleading Annual Reports are no small matter and point to a deeper malfeasance in Public Office at HS2 Ltd and The Department. This is unprecedented bad behaviour by a Government owned Company and landowners have inexcusably borne the brunt of this.
Trying to deal with HS2 Ltd has taken a huge toll on people’s lives, their wellbeing and health. This is in excusable. If, as a landowner, or indeed a family member of a landowner, you may have suffered stress or other illness brought on by the behaviour of HS2 Ltd then you may have a justifiable claim for damages. We would encourage you to seek the advice of a Solicitor but also to write lodging a complaint with HS2 Ltd.
Complaints should in the first instance be lodged with HS2 Ltd;
You may also wish to make a complaint to The Department of Transport Independent Complaints Assessors:
Finally, after first lodging complaints with HS2 Ltd and The Department for Transport the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman may be an option;
No one should have to suffer at the hands of HS2 Ltd, no matter how much they think that’s the standard by which they operate.