Member of Parliament for the Kenilworth and Southam constituency, Jeremy Wright, has expressed his dissatisfaction with the proposals to compensate property owners affected by High Speed Two (HS2) that the Department for Transport has put out to public consultation.
Speaking at a public meeting held in his constituency, he said that he would be responding to the consultation as a Constituency MP and urged all those
present to do likewise before the closing date of 31st January. He said that he appreciated that many of those present may feel that the Government was not
listening to them, and that the consultation was a pointless exercise. However, it was his view that it was essential that his constituents used this opportunity to leave the Government in no doubt about how they felt about the proposals.
The meeting, which was held at Offchurch Village Hall last Sunday afternoon (13th January), was organised by the two local action groups formed to fight
the HS2 proposals in the villages of Offchurch and Cubbington. Mr Wright said that, apart from some proposals that would only benefit those living very close to the line, the only scheme on offer for most of those affected by the blight on the housing market caused by HS2 would be a “long term hardship scheme” based on the currently operating Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS). The complaints that he had received from constituents about the operation of the EHS left him in no doubt that the scheme’s administrators were taking every opportunity to reject applications. He said that the EHS was a totally unsuitable basis for a compensation scheme set to run for ten to fifteen years.
The MP advised that he had raised his reservations about the HS2 project in general, and the proposed compensation regime in particular, in meetings with colleagues in the Government, including the Prime Minister, and that he had a further meeting arranged in the coming week with the Transport Secretary.
Mr Wright said that he will be urging the Government to scrap the proposed long term hardship scheme in favour of a Property Bond compensation scheme, which he felt would restore confidence in the local property market and help reduce the blight currently being experienced. He encouraged those present at the meeting to do the same.
In some opening comments to the meeting, Phil Riley, Vice-Chairman of the Offchurch Action Group, said that the Government’s description of the proposed compensation package as “generous” was stretching credibility. He said that the Government’s offers to buy properties close to the line would benefit a maximum of about 1,500 owners and would help no one in Offchurch or Cubbington. He commented that the EHS, on which the long term hardship scheme was based, had not been very helpful to those trying to sell, buying less than four properties a month along the whole length of the line in 27 months of operation.
Professor Mike Geddes, Chairman of the Offchurch Action Group, gave an overview of the package on offer to the meeting. He pointed out that the long term hardship scheme had tougher eligibility requirements than the EHS, and that you would be required to have had your property on sale for twelve months before being able to apply to the scheme.
Peter Delow, Chairman of the Cubbington Action Group against HS2, is posting daily blogs to help anyone wishing to comment on the compensation proposals. He said after the meeting:
“I am dismayed that the Government should think that a scheme that was introduced as a temporary stopgap, and which has been thoroughly discredited in operation, is the right basis on which to go forward to serve the next ten to fifteen years. My own experience of helping refused applicants has convinced me that the scheme has been operated unjustly, with the primary aim of keeping the number of properties that the Government has had to purchase to the absolute minimum. What we need is a proposal that truly sets out to protect all residents from losses in property value caused by HS2, not one that depends upon having to demonstrate that hardship has been suffered.”
- Further information on the HS2 Property and Compensation consultation may also be found on the Offchurch village website.
- Peter Delow’s blogs may be read at http://hs2andtheenvironment.wordpress.com
- The document that sets out the proposals for consultation High Speed Two: Property and Compensation for London –West Midlands: Consultation may be downloaded from here.
- The Property and Compensation Consultation Response Form is no longer available for download.
- Postal responses to the consultation should be addressed to FREEPOST HS2 PROPERTY AND COMPENSATION CONSULTATION.
- The e-mail address for consultation responses is email@example.com
- The on-line response facility (now closed) is at https://hs2propertyconsultation.dialoguebydesign.net.