While the Government is failing to compensate householders suffering property blight due to HS2, Planning Minister Nick Boles MP has said that he wants developers buy land near the proposed line for housing while it is cheap.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he said;
“It is one of my new year’s resolutions to seek a meeting with my opposite number in the department of transport to understand their perspective. What are we doing to make sure when we are putting in HS2 or when we are putting in major road schemes we are actually thinking from the beginning – because that is the cheapest place to do it – about how it can be used to actually unblock new settlements or other miniature schemes?”
Boles made his statement as it was revealed that just 65 homes have been purchased out of the 418 (15.6%) which have applied for compensation under the current Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS), the same week that a South Northamptonshire Council report showed that “In some cases, the housing market has completely stagnated and properties which are now valued at as little as around half the pre-blight value still remain unsold.”. This followed hot on the heels of the news last week that in Camden where significant numbers of social housing stock are already under threat, more houses than originally thought could face demolition due to an additional land take associated with construction.
The Stop HS2 campaign has always been concerned that the project has the hidden agenda of a developers charter with an associated land grab, while current land and home owners become victims and are left in the lurch by Government. The more obvious part of this has always been around station sites, especially when HS2 Ltd Chief Engineer Andrew McNaughton first said that the planned station near Birmingham Airport would create a ‘new city’ obliterating the ‘Meriden Gap’, and connecting Coventry to Birmingham. While at the time there was quick backtracking over this statement, photos of the Yokohama Shinkansen in 1964 an 40 years later in 2004 show just how much development can happen in green belts around stations. The Euston land grab has been long criticised in Camden, and at a HS2 summit in Glasgow last November, the idea that land around potential station sites would become valuable was very laboured indeed.
However, Boles has now confirmed the other associated development concern of HS2, that green belts along the line will be swallowed up by new developments, as HS2 would give rise to many parcels of ‘remainder land’, which could be deemed uneconomic to return to agricultural use. The fear has always been that if HS2 is built, these green belts would no longer be considered to be green belts and alternative developments would be allowed, meaning they could be filled with low quality, permanently blighted housing, in an attempt to claw back some of the costs of HS2.
Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 Campaign Manager said;
“The latest figures for completed compensation agreements show that the Government has little interest in genuinely compensating people, some of whom have seen the value of their biggest lifetime investment halve, simply because someone has drawn a line on a map. In saying that developers should buy up land near HS2 while it is cheap, Nick Boles might as well have given the people whose lives are being ruined by HS2 a punch in the face. Boles has shown yet again that as far as this Government is concerned, real people don’t matter, private profits do. It is amazing to think that his big idea for getting people onto the housing ladder is by building permanently blighted houses.”