Finding it easy to say no

The Property & Compensation Consultation, part 8

In my blog Not exceptionally helpful (posted 8 Jan 2013) I remarked in connection with the Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) that “the bar to qualify for help under the scheme has been set pretty high”. The truth of this remark can be seen from an “applications analysis” provided by HS2 Ltd.

I anticipate that the figures in this analysis will be updated from time to time, but as I write this blog the statistics relate to the situation at 1st January 2013 and are given in terms of cumulative totals since the scheme first opened on 20th August 2010.

The analysis reveals that, in just over 28 months of operation of the EHS, 418 applications have been received, of which 112 were reapplications. This implies, I think, that 306 homeowners have applied at least once to the scheme.

This is already very revealing. HS2 Action Alliance, in a press release, estimates that “there are 172,000 properties one kilometre of the planned line or 250metres of a tunnel”; so 306 represents a very small drop in the ocean of the properties that may be blighted by HS2. It also seems reasonable that the number of properties offered for sale which were suffering the effects of HS2 blight in 28 months of EHS operation must be many more than 306. I think that we may safely conclude that many property vendors under the influence of HS2 blight haven’t seen it worth their while to apply to the EHS.

So how have the 306 applicants that did think that it might be worth applying to the EHS fared? The answer is that 33% (100) have been successful, with a further 24 awaiting a decision. It does appear, for whatever reasons, that, as I remark in the title of this blog, the EHS Panel is finding it easy to say no.

I suspect that the Department for Transport is quite satisfied with these statistics, because the EHS Panel is being successful in keeping compensation costs well within check. A total cost of £38.6 million is recorded in the applications analysis, which is small beer compared to the mounting costs of the HS2 programme.

You may be interested in the reasons given for rejecting applications. We have been given some insight into this by the response to a Freedom of Information request (FOI12‑406) made in April 2012. Whilst this response does not give detailed reasons for rejection, it does tell us the number of times that each of the five criteria was deemed not to have been satisfied. These are again cumulative totals from the start of the scheme and the most recent date for which the information has been provided is 1st May 2012. Since more than one criterion may be cited when refusing an application, the total for the five criteria taken together exceeds the total number of rejections.

The most often-cited reason for a failed application is Criterion 5, with 218 instances recorded; this is the pressing need to sell/suffering exceptional hardship criterion. The second is Criterion 3, requiring the applicant to have made reasonable efforts to sell, which has been cited 156 times. That these two dominate is no great surprise; they are both ill-defined and allow the EHS Panel plenty of scope to find reasons for rejection.

The third most-cited reason is Criterion 2, requiring the property to be in close proximity to the route, with 91 instances. Again, this is ill-defined and relies on the judgement of the EHS Panel. It is easy to envisage situations where the applicant’s view of “close proximity” and the view of the EHS Panel may be at odds.

Fourth in the list is Criterion 1, with only 22 instances. Since this refers to the ownership and residence qualification requirements of the scheme, which appear to be fairly tightly defined, I am surprised that any rejections have been logged under this criterion; presumably, some applicants misunderstood or were being a trifle hopeful.

Criterion 4 requires no prior knowledge of HS2 at the time that the applicant purchased the property and, unsurprisingly, there have been no rejections in which this was cited.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on January 12, 2013 at 10:08 am

    This work can be submitted for both the safeguarding and also the property/compensation 11 questions and requires the support of the Counties and Local Authorities to question why the Y phase 1 and Y phase 2 east route. What is the point to taking forward phase 1 HS2 Y when it was a starting stroke that does not address ECML and WCML overcrowding of the future. Some properties and people did not have any hardship but may have been problematic in the hybrid bill petitioning and were it is alledged acquired with other arrangements. This is the unfairness.

    Reply

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