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DfT unveils new HS2 compensation scheme

Controversial compensation plans outlined by the Department for Transport (DfT) have made it easier for the government to purchase homes along Phase One of the HS2 route. 

As part an “improved” compensation package, from today the government can, as part of an “express purchase scheme”, buy properties in the area known as the ‘surface safeguard area’ (generally within 60 metres from the proposed line) at the full unblighted market value, plus 10% (up to £47,000) and reasonable moving expenses, including stamp duty. 

According to the DfT, the scheme is designed to be “quick, clear and as straightforward as possible” to make it easier for owner-occupiers to sell their property to the government, if they wish to do so. After listening to feedback and suggestions, the measures for people along Phase One of the route between London and Birmingham have been thoroughly examined and revised. 

In addition, a ‘rent-back’ option will also be available from today, which will mean that those people who want to sell their properties (under any of the schemes being announced) but carry on living where they are, may be able to do so. 

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I completely understand the concerns and anxieties of those living near the line and it is only right that those people are properly looked after. I believe this package of compensation and assistance will enable us to help people more. But I want to get it absolutely right, so I am asking for further views on some aspects before we finalise the plans.”

The ‘exceptional hardship scheme’ will also continue to be available for those who have an urgent need to sell their home but are unable to do so because of HS2. Already the government has bought 114 properties at a cost of around £67m from owner-occupiers living near the route. 

Following a further consultation, the government also intends to introduce a voluntary purchase scheme by the end of this year for owner occupiers in rural areas outside the safeguarded area and up to 120 metres away from the line. Eligible owner-occupiers would be able to apply to sell their property for its full unblighted market value. 

Alternatively, if these owner-occupiers do not want to move, they can await the outcome of the further consultation to begin later this year on a cash payment of 10% of the value of their home (from a proposed minimum of £30,000 to a maximum of £100,000). 

Following the further consultation, the government also intends to introduce a need to sell scheme and consider applications to buy properties at full unblighted market value from owner-occupiers who have a compelling need to sell. 

Beyond this compensation package the government will consult on a homeowner payment scheme which would entitle owner-occupiers to a cash payment if they live between 120 metres and 300 metres from the line in rural areas. The payments could be from £7,500 to £22,500, depending on how close the route is to the property. This will come into effect following Parliamentary approval of the HS2 route between London and the Midlands. 

There's also to be a new a Residents' Charter and the appointment of an Independent Residents Commissioner. Speaking in response to today’s announcement, Sir David Higgins said: “We must be as clear about our compensation policies as we are about the other positives of HS2. 

“Fairness, transparency and efficiency have to be at the heart of everything we do. People rightly want to know what they’re entitled to and how quickly we will deal with their claims. The new Charter and Commissioner will provide residents with the confidence that we’ll deal with each case clearly, fairly and as fast as we can.” 

However, Stop HS2 said that the government has decided to bury bad news today, announcing a new proposal for HS2 compensation on the same day as the HS2 Environmental Statement consultation analysis showed that more people left the form blank than supported HS2. 

Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 campaign manager, said: “Trying to bury the bad news which saw more people accidentally send their form in blank than say they supported HS2 in the latest consultation, government have tried to spin a new compensation deal, by re-announcing schemes already in place and saying there will be a sixth consultation on more discretionary proposals, after only 26% of those who have currently applied under the EHS scheme have been paid out in four years. 

“If the government were serious about their compensation proposals, they would be contained within the Hybrid Bill and not a discretionary scheme which could be turned off at any time.” 

(Photo: PA Wire/Rui Vieira) 

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