HS2 Compensation Claims Continue as MPs Approve Paving Bill
Our friends at Knight Frank have provided the following update in the wake of the HS2 Paving Bill being debated in the House of Commons last week: Only 34 MPs voted against the introduction of the HS2 Paving Bill when it was debated in the House of Commons last week (31 October). Some media reports had predicted that up to 60 Tory MPs might rebel.
Although the bill was passed comfortably with 350 votes in favour, a significant number of Parliament’s 649 sitting MPs, including some with constituencies along the proposed route, clearly did not take part. This suggests the full Hybrid Bill for Phase 1 of HS2, which will allow the physical construction of the railway from London to Birmingham and is due to start its progress through Parliament later this month, could be in for a much rougher ride.
However, Given the Paving Bill does authorise a significant amount of money to be spent on the preliminary design work needed for HS2, it would seem counterproductive for those worried about the economic impact of the scheme to remain on the side-lines at this point. Labour also seems to have decided it will continue to support HS2, despite the misgivings of shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and other high-profile figures in the party. The new shadow transport minister Mary Creagh said:
“HS2 is a project that is in the national interest. It has suffered from the fiscal and project management incompetence of this Government, and I hope that this Secretary of State will get it back on track. It will fall to the next Labour government to build HS2 – on time, on budget and in the national interest.”
Although opponents continue to campaign against the scheme and pull apart the latest economic arguments put forward by the government, we can only assume at this stage that HS2 will go ahead. To emphasise his support, Prime Minister David Cameron is now taking a more hands-on role in making the case for HS2. He has already said that the first task of David Higgins, the new chairman of HS2 Ltd, will be to look at ways to cut costs and deliver the line more quickly than currently scheduled. Sir David’s report is expected in March 2014. It will be interesting to see if the report proposes reducing costs by general improvements in efficiency or by cutting some of the route’s more expensive engineering works, such as the length of its tunnelled sections, some of which were proposed in response to environmental and noise concerns.
HS2 Compensation for affected property owners
For affected property owners there are a number of HS2 compensation options currently available, depending on which Phase of the HS2 route they are living on. The Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) is open to anybody along Phases 1 and 2 (Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds), as well as the proposed Heathrow spur. EHS is targeted at homeowners who will suffer undue hardship because they cannot sell their houses for their unblighted open-market value due to HS2. Strict criteria apply so any application needs to include comprehensive supporting evidence. Since Phase 1 was “Safeguarded” in July, Statutory Blight notices have also been an option for homeowners or businesses with property in the “Safeguarding” zone. “Safeguarding” of the route for Phase 2 is expected to happen within the next 12 to 18 months.
For those whose notices have been rejected, a lack of comprehensive supporting evidence was probably to blame. James Del Mar, Head of Knight Frank’s HS2 team, says: “This highlights the need to assemble all the relevant information in the correct format and put all the hard work into the preparation of a watertight case.” James adds: “Once a Statutory light Notice has been accepted, applicants are notified and a form supplied requiring completion and, in effect, submission of the full claim. “This too needs careful compilation and all facts need to be evidenced with supporting information. English law requires the claimant to demonstrate justification and the burden of proof is firmly on the applicant. “Submitting an incomplete claim merely risks either rejection or delay in the submission of the claim and negotiation of the ultimate settlement.” For those worried about the cost of taking expert advice, reasonable professional fees are fully indemnified by HS2 – so there is no substitute for taking the very best professional advice and ensuring that your interests are fully protected. The public consultation on a further raft of discretionary measures, including a property bond option, for affected property owners closes on 4 December. Those wishing to respond can do so here.