Same as before?

The Property & Compensation Consultation, part 14

Paragraphs 4.15 to 4.26 in the consultation document High Speed Two: Property and Compensation for London –West Midlands outline how the proposed long term hardship scheme for HS2 will operate. This is little evidence therein that the Government has learnt anything from the injustice and unfairness of the Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS), which I discussed in my blog Seen to be done? (posted 10 Jan 2013). The only two procedural improvements that I have detected in the description in the consultation document are an undertaking to give failed applicants “a full explanation of why the application was unsuccessful” and the proposal that “aerial photographs of the line of route will also be used to help the panel better understand the location of the property and the landscape within which it and the line of route sit”.

As with the EHS, “successful applicants would have their property purchased by the Government at its un-blighted open market value”. The proposed method for determining this value is similar to the EHS.

One of the criticisms that I level against the EHS in my blog Seen to be done? is that applicants are not invited to attend EHS Panel meetings. This point is covered is paragraph 4.23 of High Speed Two: Property and Compensation for London –West Midlands:

“We have also considered the inclusion of site visits and personal appearances before the panel as part of the long term hardship scheme process. However, the extra time taken to incorporate these additions would significantly lengthen the time taken to reach a decision on applications as well as making the process overly bureaucratic. We therefore believe that neither are appropriate nor proportionate steps to take.”

So it appears that justice must take second place to expediency.

On a more positive note, we are told, in paragraph 4.26, that:

“The Government therefore proposes to produce a detailed guidance document for applications to the long term hardship scheme. This will not only give details of the scheme and how applications will be handled but also make clear the type of evidence and the level of detail that will be required by the panel in order for them to be able to recommend the acceptance of an application.”

Consultation Question 5 relates to the proposals for how the long term hardship scheme will operate:

 “What are your views on the proposed process for the operation of the long term hardship scheme?

You may wish to argue that the reason given in paragraph 4.23 for holding panel meetings in camera is not sufficient justification for excluding the applicant, which is in conflict with the principles of open justice.

You may feel that, in the interests of natural justice, the long term hardship scheme proposals must include an independent appeals procedure.

You may wish to comment on the methods that have been used to obtain additional evidence for the EHS Panel and insist that these are not repeated for the long term hardship scheme. It is essential that any additional evidence is disclosed to the applicant prior to the panel hearing, in sufficient time to allow the applicant to obtain his own additional evidence, should he wish.

You may wish to consult the views in my blog Seen to be done? to assist you make your submission on the above points.

There is just one further aspect of the proposals in High Speed Two: Property and Compensation for London –West Midlands that I need to pick up, and this seems a convenient little corner to tuck it in. Section 6 of the consultation document considers how the Government can best insure that any social housing lost to make way for HS2 will be replaced with high quality housing, in the same area, and ahead of the compulsory purchase dates.

Consultation Question 7 relates to the proposals for replacing lost social housing:

“What are your views on how the Government should work with local authorities, housing associations and affected tenants to agree a joint strategy to replace any lost social rented housing?”

You may wish to comment that all costs associated with the provision of replacement social housing should be borne by the HS2 project and that no burden should be placed on local authority finance.

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