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05.02.16

HS2 makes ‘limited progress’ on community links – Residents’ Commissioner

HS2 Ltd has made “limited progress” on re-establishing links with communities to share information, according to Deborah Fazan, HS2 Residents’ Commissioner. 

In her latest report, Fazan said HS2 has progressed with substantial work on the property schemes and Residents’ Charter, which were both introduced in January 2105. However, their implementation has “thrown up issues which remain to be resolved”. 

She also noted that recommendations made in her initial report last year, which included restoring local engagement areas, with an identifiable community engagement team, haven’t progressed as quickly as hoped. 

But Fazan added HS2 Ltd is “now starting to build the teams, with the intention that more dedicated resource will be in the field from spring 2016”. At the moment, this mainly applies to Phase 1. Phase 2 will be increasingly supported as the project in those areas moves towards the construction phase. 

It was also noted that all three property schemes associated with HS2 – Phase 1 Rural Support Zone, Phase 1 Need to Sell and Phase 2 Exceptional Hardship Scheme – have raised concerns with regards to valuation. 

“Homeowners qualifying for the schemes would prefer to use local valuers, who may be more aware of specific local issues than the HS2-appointed panel valuers. The DfT has stated that it is looking into this part of the process and will publish its findings early in 2016,” said Fazan. 

This concern has been ongoing since the original Phase 1 Exceptional Hardship Scheme was launched, and it continues to be a major cause for concern amongst applicants. 

Additionally, it was noted that some mortgage lenders are unwilling to lend on a property at potential risk of close proximity to HS2. 

Fazan said: “For Phase 2 (apart from the accelerated route between the West Midlands and Crewe), the ongoing uncertainty over the line of route is now affecting those wishing to remortgage, as well as those seeking new mortgages.”

She explained that HS2 Ltd is working with the Council for Mortgage Lenders. However, the the line of route for the “whole of Phase 2 needs to be finalised before clarity can be given on the properties affected”, which in turn will provide the degree of certainty that mortgage lenders are seeking. 

Fazan added that plans to recruit more personnel and to employ an outside body to support applicants have started, but are “moving forward very slowly”. 

“I have not yet had sight of how local engagement on Phase 1 will be taken forward from April onwards,” she said. “However, I am aware that a detailed community engagement plan has recently been presented to the HS2 Board. 

“I am concerned that there is no forum for anyone who is not part of the Phase 1 petitioning process to have easy access to HS2 Ltd to resolve queries, other than through the telephone service offered by the HS2 Enquiries team. However, if the community engagement plan presented to the Board is implemented, the local community engagement will advance significantly.”

Comments

Jean   01/08/2016 at 18:46

My disabled son in Buckingham has sold his house in Bucks but has been held up 11 months waiting for someone in the queue to be paid by HS2 for compulsory purchase of their house. When are HS2 going to get around to payment ? How much longer are we to be kept waiting. ????

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