Compensation Confusion

Despite a ruling that HS2 Ltd have been ordered to disclose information over their Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) for Stage 1 of HS2, HS2 Ltd have been keen to spin this away with the fact there has been  a ‘strong response’ to their closed consultation on the final scheme for Stage 1. On top of that, there is confusion over the current EHS consultation proposals for Stage 2 and the Woolwich are trying to backtrack on their recent ‘zero valuation’ of a home in Turweston, but don’t seem to know which way to go.

Speaking about the consultation on final Stage 1 compensation, HS2 Ltd chief spin doctor Clinton Leeks, said:

“While it is too early to give specifics, we have received a strong and encouraging level of responses to the consultations on property compensation and safeguarding. We recognise the impact major infrastructure projects like HS2 can have on local communities, and that is why the Government has been consulting on a package of property compensation measures which go beyond what is set out in law.”

Of course what he missed from that statement was whether anyone’s views will actually be listened to, especially as the consultation documents ruled out the implementation of a property bond, which had been heavily supported in the two previous Stage 1 compensation consultations.  Nothing on the table seems to actually promise to fully compensate blight, with the majority of effected homeowners due to be dumped in the ‘Long Term Hardship Scheme’, which will be a harder to access version of the current EHS, which as at January 1st 2013 had paid out just 16% of applicants in two and a half years of operation.

The key issue is how far away (or more rightly how close to) from the line people will have to be to automatically qualify. Currently the Government is proposing that to absolutely qualify for compensation, you will have to live within 120 metres of the centre line between the proposed tracks. But in a key ruling, the appeal court has told HS2 Ltd that they must disclose how far away successful applicants to EHS live.

After being turned down for EHS, Ian Helstrip sent in a freedom of information request asking how far away people receiving EHS had lived, as he was turned down for EHS because he ‘lived too far away from HS2’. The FOI request was turned down, but an appeal tribunal headed by Judge Chris Ryan said;

‘We conclude, unanimously, that HS2 was not justified in refusing the Appellant’s request for information and that it should be disclosed to him. ’We have decided that HS2 was not entitled to withhold information about the distance between the route of the proposed line and the property which was furthest away from it, but had nevertheless qualified for assistance under EHS (Exceptional Hardship Scheme). ‘We think that HS2’s expressed fear about the public’s inability to understand the disclosed information does not give the public enough credit for its ability to delve behind over-simplified media headlines or slanted statements from pressure groups. It does not require information to be withheld from the public as though, in the words of the Appellant’, the public was not sufficiently grown up to be trusted with it.’

This information could of course be seen in future to have set a precedent. HS2 Ltd have until the first week of March to respond.

Last week, we reported on the case of 97-year old Elfrida Harper-Tarr MBE, who was unable to sell her house in Turweston which is 450 metres from the proposed route after the Woolwich, acting for the buyers, valued the house at £0.00. Woolwich have since been desperate to backtrack from this since, but aren’t sure what to say. One news organisation was told that the cost of renovations were the real reason, another was told that ‘not applicable’ should have been put down, with the latest spin on it being that the valuation was an administrative error. This is despite the valuation report clearly stated;

“The property is located within an area which is likely to be effected by the proposed high speed rail link HS2. In the future there will be disruption during the construction of the rail link and there will be ongoing impact affecting the quiet enjoyment of the property. The consequences of the proposal have had a significant prejudicial affect on property in the village and none have been recently sold on the open market. This property is therefore not considered a suitable security for normal lending purposes as demand is adversely affected.”

Finally, there seems to be a worrying change in the proposed rules for Stage 2 EHS. Stage 1 spoke of ‘expected sale price’, but Stage 2 is talking about ‘realistic asking price’. On face value, that sounds better, but the word ‘unblighted’ seems to have somehow disappeared…………..

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3 comments on “Compensation Confusion
  1. Ministers are saying that there’s going to be a generous compensation scheme, more generous than when the motorways were built. What they don’t say is that this only applies to property within 120 meters of the line, or 60 meters if it’s on the inside of the M25.

    The blight corridor is 3 – 5 miles on each side of the route. Property values here are down by 25–35%. Homeowners cannot claim compensation until one year after the railway has been open – i.e. not before 2027 South of Birmingham and 2033 North of Birmingham.
    Blight on this scale and duration has not been seen before. Anyone who needs to sell in this period will be facing massive financial losses because of HS2.

    If the government insists on pressing on with HS2 they will have to deal with the issue of blight or face legal challenges. The legal eagles are already hovering overhead. See here – http://www.devereuxchambers.co.uk/assets/docs/publications/peaceful_atmosphere.pdf

  2. Much is made by ministers about their consultations. They give a kind of democratic credibility to the decision making process.

    They’re saying now that the route to Birmingham was subject to the largest consultation ever. What they don’t say of course is that they did not take a blind bit of notice of anything that anyone said!

    A property bond scheme, endorsed by property professionals and actively promoted by MPs and others, was proposed in the 2011 consultation. Given the level of support, I do not understand why this has not been carried forward.

  3. I have addressed an aspect of this in an earlier posting*
    In all these calculations of ‘cost’ and ‘compensation’ there is an underlying mendacious and astucious artifice which parliament (and the advising Civil Service) as the originators of HS2 Ltd both uphold and rely upon. The Hybrid Bill will be pursued in the name of Crown. ( which raises the issue of petitions to HRM Queen Elizabeth, HRH Prince Charles.

    Different Governments( even within the EU) have differing schemes of compensation and this is a global variance
    The schemes rarely bear any true semblance to the true values.
    The ‘arbitry’ distance from rail track centre is archaic and of limited value to those who stand to lose be it private individuals or organizations.
    The whole economic basis of the schemed HS2 plan is reliant on the blighting and theft of privately held assets and the non payment of adequate compensation for loss of value and amenity.
    Buckinghamshire Council has taken a kilometer margin around the development as the realm of impact in order to complete its revised environmental survey and they used Kents HS1 as a guide.
    Kents HS1 being built in transport corridors ad through the narrowest AONB corridor is thus not even a good comparator. One of the reasons that the proposed route through the Herts transport corridor did not proceed was 1) powerful lobbying 2) reflection of noise within the valley and the level of urban development there.
    The wisdom of the current Chiltern Route and the populations en route seem to have ignored this aspect. The actual built impact of the scheme with service routes has yet to be produced or established. Such roads are required for maintenance and emergency access in case of terrorism,derailment or crash.
    Pre- existing transport corridors facilitate this access. There is no UK model for the proposed route in this respect.

    Campden Council have already questioned the urban distance values and qualifiers for compensation. Estate agents have already given a good indication that the blight in terms of value spreads well beyond that distance used by HS2 ltd. Indeed the loss of value in the country is magnified as much property value is tied up with environmental amenity and desirability.
    It is no good to say that those who have paid for and possess such assets deserve to be punished by their theft in order to provide capitalist gains to others ( in a bizarre redistribution) because it is essentially condoning a form of theft. Nor does the lawns/jobs argument work in this paradigm either, because they are not morally arguable. The add should read “we will steal your lawns, damage AONBs and Sites of scientific interest and subsidize jobs and capitalist benefits to others who will take the profits.”
    If however those who are about to gain pay for the damage, losses of amenity and value, additional costs and their business plan has proven merits then this is potentially a different matter .
    Estate agents can predict the value losses faced by the considerable number of blighted communities.
    The value of AONBs and Sites of scientific value can be ‘grossly’ calculated ( it has been done for rain forests and oceans)
    These together with time corrected projected building costs should represented as the true costs of the scheme and for which HS2 Ltd should be responsible for.

    Stealth Confiscation
    How governments regulate, freeze
    and devalue private property—
    without compensation
    Mark Milke
    http://www.fraserinstitute.org/uploadedFiles/fraser-ca/Content/research-news/research/publications/stealth-confiscation-how-governments-regulate-freeze-devalue-property.pdf

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