Yesterday during Prime Minister’s questions, Andrew Bridgen asked a question about the blight that his constituents are now facing, because of HS2. The question and David Cameron’s answer are below: we disagree with almost everything he said about HS2.
In particular, he said there will be in place a “very generous” compensation scheme. The reality for those trying to use the existing scheme is very different.
For instance, the BBC recently reported that less than a quarter of applicants to the current Exceptional Hardship Scheme had been accepted – 103 out of 428 applications. The scheme is only available to people in the direst of situations, who meet the tighest of criteria;
Ian Higgins, who moved from a farm near Sutton Coldfield that was only yards from the proposed line, said claiming through the government’s Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) took two years and four separate applications.
“I think the scheme definitely sets you up to fail. There’s not enough information, they throw very small, petty things back at you that are almost insignificant.
And it looks like the Phase 2 scheme may be even worse. Ian Waddell, chair of Middleton Action Group, looked through the Phase 2 proposed scheme and compared it to the existing scheme.
This is what he found – there may be other differences as well:
The Phase 2 EHS proposals out for consultation (closing date 29 April), which are being claimed to be an ‘improvement’ by HS2Ltd, in fact appear to have been tightened in several respects.
A quick initial comparison of the two documents (based on July 2012 version of Phase 1 EHS guidance) reveals:
- Property Type/who is eligible
The expanded/extended definitions of owner occupier and agricultural units have been omitted in the P2 doc.
- Effort to Sell
“Have you made all reasonable efforts to sell your property and still received an offer within 15% of its unaffected open market property value (that is the price it would most likely have achieved, assuming a normal or non-urgent sale period, other than for the announcement of the route for a high speed rail line)?”
The value is replaced by…
“ … within 15% of a realistic asking price….”
There is no further definition of this price.
- No Prior Knowledge
Texts are similar. In my view this criterion has no rational justification and further blights the local housing market.
Additional paragraphs inserted under hardship definition (criteria 5) include the following (the writer of which deserves some sort of prize!): “2.27 Almost everyone experiences one or more forms of hardship at some point in their lives, be it emotional, financial, medical or something else. The scheme is not being proposed to help those experiencing the sort of hardship that many people can expect to experience at some point. ”
Meaning that only hardship resulting from unusual and unforeseeable events will be accepted?
Additionally applicants will now be required to prove that they are unable to move without selling their property:
“2.28 Applicants should be able to demonstrate that they have a pressing need to sell (not simply to move from) their property within the proposed lifetime of the scheme, and that they would suffer exceptional hardship if they had to wait until such time as the longer term package of compensation and blight measures are available.”
Presumably this means if you need to move to a bungalow because of a medical condition, you will not be eligible unless you can prove that you do not have the resources to buy (or rent?) an additional property without selling you existing one?
Q14.  Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): The widely disputed economic benefits of HS2 may or may not be realised in 20 years’ time. However, the blight, fear and anxiety the project generates hit my constituency on 28 January with the announcement of the extended route. I now have constituents who cannot sell their houses, businesses uncertain about their future and the potential loss of a £500 million private sector investment set to generate 7,000 jobs in 2016. Can my right hon. Friend ensure that representatives of HS2 visit my constituency to address the real concerns of my constituents about this project?
The Prime Minister: I am very happy to make sure that what my hon. Friend asks for happens. I quite understand that the launch of a project such as HS2 causes a lot of local concern and unease. That is why we are putting in place such a large national consultation and will put in place a very generous compensation scheme. If we are to win in the global race economically, we must ensure that we invest in new infrastructure, whether roads and bypasses, bridges, tunnels or, indeed, railways including high-speed rail. The rest of the world is getting on board the high-speed rail revolution and it is right that we should too.