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A long, cold wait for hundreds of households

This was recently released by VoxOpp, the action group for the Villages of Oxfordshire Opposing HS2.

Anyone reading the Department for Transport’s much trumpeted “best ever” compensation scheme for those affected by the proposed high-speed railway from London to Birmingham (HS2), will be surprised to learn that hundreds of households will still be left out in the cold, uncompensated, unable to move house and facing the loss of a great part of what they have worked for over many years.

This is the fate of anyone whose property is beyond the limit of 120 metres from the track set by the Government.  Within that limit it is true that improvements have been made that will enable people to move away with adequate compensation and pick up the pieces of their lives elsewhere. But if your property is for example 150 metres from the point where the 800 ton trains will rocket past at well over 200 mph every two minutes, your options are to sell your house at a giveaway price and start over again or stay put and accept that your life is going to be changed completely and that you have no say in the matter. In approximately fifteen years time when the train has been in operation for a year you will be able to claim some compensation for the increased noise and other nuisance, but this will come nowhere near compensating you for the loss in value of your property. If before that time you suffer extreme personal and financial disaster (but not one that is related to the building of HS2) you may qualify for the Government to buy your house under the Hardship Scheme.  But be warned, only a tiny percentage of claimants have been successful so far.

The Government’s rationale for this is that house values tend to recover once new infrastructure is in place and becomes accepted.  But the comparison with other projects does not hold water.  HS2 has no value whatsoever for people living anywhere except at the extreme ends where the stations are, and certainly not for anyone in Oxfordshire, so there is nothing to offset the nuisance and bring values back up.  Motorways and normal railways offer the benefit of easier travel, and airports – the nearest comparison noise-wise – offer fast travel and huge employment locally.

So the minority who will benefit from the new railway will be doing so at the expense of others and should spare a thought for those unfortunate people who live very close to the line but not quite close enough for compensation. These people will be putting their lives on hold for the next fifteen years waiting to see if their properties recover their value.  And when this doesn’t happen all they will have left is the hollow satisfaction of saying to the government of the day “we told you so”.

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4 comments to “A long, cold wait for hundreds of households”
  1. Contrary to Philip Hammonds promises, it seems that people will lose out financially because of HS2. Civil servants have not been able to devise a scheme whereby homeowners would be able to sell at an unblighted price. I suspect that any such proposals were probably vetoed by the treasury for fear of breaking the bank.

    But they will say there is the hardship scheme, which will allow homeowners close to the line to ask the government to buy their property. A cynic might say that this is a spin doctor’s ‘sound bite’ scheme, put in place so that ministers and other spokespeople for HS2 can make out that they care about the unfortunate people who will lose out because of HS2, while in reality hanging most of them out to dry.

    The Department for Transport said the proposed compensation would be “significantly beyond statutory requirements”, and Transport Minister Simon Burns said it would “strike the right balance for local communities and the British taxpayer”. Actually Mr Burns, the best thing for local communities and for taxpayers would be to scrap it altogether.

  2. Just had a reply from Dft re my question as to what Mr McLoughlin means by ‘we will fast track HS2’ which basically says they cannot comment and that they are committed to driving hs2 forward as fast as is practicable.
    Seems it was more spin.

    • Patrick McLoughlin was perfectly clear at the TSC briefing …..the desire is to bring HS2 to fruition as fast as possible. Absolutely no spin whatsoever……it was straight from the horses mouth!!

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