“At best incompetence and at worst corruption”

Below is a complaint made by residents who were due to have their property purchased under a blight notice. The subject matter of this complaint appears to suggest that HS2 Ltd are in a position to selectively apply a ”home-made rule” in a way that will enable them to gain a commercial advantage over residents that are forced to sell the properties in order to make way for HS2.

There appears to be an internal policy within HS2 Ltd that they will not hold agreed values for more than 6 months in blight notice cases. As far as we are aware this home-made rule has not been publicised. Given what we all know about HS2 Ltd we have little confidence that HS2 Ltd will operate the “rule” consistently and in the interests of residents, especially if house prices start to fall. Why the secrecy? To quote Lord May of Oxford – “I wouldn’t trust HS2 Ltd to mow my lawn”. It all rings of bankers and LIBOR fixing.

Dear Mr Kirby

Please treat this as our Nth Formal Complaint.

We were told at a meeting with a HS2 representative on 25th of May 2016 that HS2 Ltd had a policy of holding professionally agreed values on properties to be purchased under a blight notice for only 6 months (“the six month rule”).

The minutes as prepared by HS2 Ltd state:-

“Mr & Mrs X agents agreed the valuation on the property in February 2016 ……………. [The HS2 Ltd representative] advised that these values are usually held for 6 months………………………. Mr & Mrs X were concerned that they had not been made aware of the 6 month clause”

The implication of this rule is that If a sale under a blight notice to HS2 Ltd has not proceeded to exchange by six months from the date the professional agents agreed values, the values can be re-assessed at the option of either party.

We find this extremely concerning for a number of reasons:-

1.       Can you clarify in detail exactly how this rule is supposed to operate?

2.       Where has this policy been publicised? We cannot find it anywhere on HS2 Ltd literature or on their web site.

3.       Why were we not made aware of “the six month” rule when our property values were agreed by our respective agents?

4.       Why is the “six month rule” only being used selectively? We are aware of cases where house prices have risen and properties have not exchanged after 6 months and the policy was not disclosed and the option to revalue has not been offered or given.

5.       Is it the intention of HS2 Ltd to advertise this policy only if house prices fall (such as in the event of a Brexit vote)?

6.       If this rule is applied many residents will be in for an unexpected shock if they agreed values more than six months ago and have not yet exchanged. If house prices fall following a Brexit vote they could suddenly find they are unexpectedly getting less than they thought they had agreed to sell their property. This is extremely serious as some may have committed to purchasing alternative properties. This is especially serious as residents have not been made aware of this.

7.       How can it be fair to residents that the “six month rule” is kept secret and then potentially only applied selectively to HS2 Ltd’s advantage?

8.       How can the six month rule be in accordance with the Compensation Code in cases where HS2 Ltd have agreed values? The Compensation Code clearly states that the date of valuation is the earlier of (1) the date possession is taken and (2) the date values are agreed.

9.       What is the role of the “Independent” Residents Commissioner in this issue? Is she aware of this policy? Why has she not made sure it was properly advertised and applied consistently?

We would like an answer to these questions. We are particularly concerned, because depending on the answers to these questions and the “hidden” nature and selective use of the “six month rule”, this points to, at best, incompetence, and, at worst, corruption.

Please respond to this complaint in accordance with the HS2 Ltd complaints procedures.

We should advise HS2 Ltd that we are considering making this complaint public given the serious nature of the issues contained in it and the possible implications on residents affected by HS2.

We should be grateful if the “Independent” Residents Commissioner could contact us about this issue.

Mr and Mrs X

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