A sense of déjà vu

In the spring of 2010 the Government held the first in what is becoming a long line of public consultations on its high speed rail proposals. This consultation was about the Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) for Phase 1 – although it wasn’t called Phase 1 in those days, just High Speed 2. Around 4,500 submissions were received, a mere handful when compared with the more than 55,000 that responded to the main HS2 consultation held in 2011. Like the Phase 2 EHS, the first EHS consultation was launched concurrently with the provisional route details and so the lower number of submissions was surely due, in part at least, to the low level of awareness of the HS2 proposal before the campaign against it had really got going.

Like the Phase 1 announcement in March 2010, the Phase 2 announcement made in January 2013 launched a yet another consultation; this time it was on a proposed Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) for Phase 2. This consultation runs until 29th April 2013 and, it appears, is unaffected by the outcome of the judicial review. The proposed terms are set out in the consultation document High Speed Two: Exceptional Hardship Scheme for Phase Two.

Although the Government discounted the majority of the representations that it received as the result of the Phase 1 EHS consultation, it did widen the eligibility of the scheme to include owners of small businesses and agricultural units, which at least aligned the EHS with the statutory blight provisions, and extended the scheme to cover properties in the vicinity of tunnel portals, but not to those directly over the route of bored tunnels.

The Phase 1 EHS has been running since 20th August 2010. The terms and conditions of this scheme are set out in the booklet High Speed Two – Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS): Updated Guidance and Application Form. I would advise anyone contemplating a submission to the Phase 2 consultation to read this booklet first, as it sets a baseline for the Phase 2 scheme.

I think that it is reasonable to say that many of us who have come into contact with the operation of the Phase 1 EHS regard it as deeply flawed and inherently unfair. I discussed problems with the eligibility criteria that apply to the Phase 1 EHS in my blog Not exceptionally helpful (posted 8 Jan 2013) and criticised the way that the scheme has been operated by HS2 Ltd in Seen to be done? (posted 10 Jan 2013). Again, shunning false modesty, I recommend would-be respondents to the latest consultation to read these two blogs for background.

The Government plans to wind up the Phase 1 EHS in the near future and the details of its replacement was one of the topics covered by a public consultation that ran from 25th October 2012 to 31st January 2013. The results of this consultation have not yet been announced by the Government, and the High Court judgement that I reported in my blog Sorry seems to be the hardest word (posted 21 Mar 2013) appears to have sent the whole process into limbo. However, it is worth noting that the hardship scheme set out in the document High Speed Two: Property and Compensation for London –West Midlands, which was published for that ill-fated consultation, is very much “son of EHS”, although it is masquerading under the new name “long term hardship scheme”. If nothing else, sticking to the old EHS formula demonstrates Government doggedness and lack of imagination – after all, the EHS was meant to be a temporary scheme until the Government thought up something better for the long term.

The proposals for the Phase 2 EHS, now being consulted upon, are very similar to the details of the long term hardship scheme (LTHS) proposal and are not at all dissimilar to the Phase 1 EHS rules.

For this reason the comments that I made about the five criteria specified for the LTHS in my blog Let them eat cake (posted 17 Jan 2013) apply generally to the Phase 2 EHS proposals, except as noted below.

  • Unlike the LTHS, Criterion 1 of the Phase 2 EHS proposal does include owner-occupiers of small business premises, owner-occupiers of agricultural units and mortgagees in the classes of owners that are eligible.
  • The minimum time that the property must have been on the market is specified as three months – the same as the Phase 1 EHS – not the twelve months required for the LTHS. For the Phase 2 EHS no offer must have been received within 15% of “a realistic asking price”. For the Phase 1 EHS the form of words used is “unaffected open market property value” and for the LTHS it is “unblighted, open market property price”.
  • No mention is made within the conditions for Criterion 4 of the Phase 2 EHS of allowance being made for changes to the route of Phase 2 subsequent to the initial announcement having been made.
  • Whilst the terms proposed for the application of Criterion 5 of the Phase 2 EHS are, in broad terms, similar to the LTHS equivalent, it could be argued that the former place even more emphasis on the need to demonstrate “exceptional” hardship. Unsurprisingly in view of the intended “short-term” nature of the Phase 2 EHS, the proposals make no provision for a “future need to sell” as is the case for the LTHS.

The comments that I made about the proposed process for the operation of the LTHS in my blog Same as before? (posted 18 Jan 2013) all apply, in general, to the Phase 2 EHS. I have noticed only two slight differences in the proposed terms and conditions for the two schemes. The wording in paragraph 2.37 of the document High Speed Two: Exceptional Hardship Scheme for Phase Two is different to the corresponding paragraph for the LTHS, but is more a tidying up of the drafting rather than signalling a change of intent. The LTHS proposal limits the lifetime of an offer to buy to six months, whereas offers made under the Phase 2 EHS will be valid for the lifetime of the scheme.

Details of how to repond to the Phase 2 EHS consultation may be found here. Good luck!

PS: A useful guide on responding to the Phase 2 EHS consultation has been prepared by the HS2 Action Alliance.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on March 29, 2013 at 6:52 am

    in addition to replying about EHS matters it is essential people with uncertainties and impact matters provide inputs and state these and ask for meetings. The people in phase 2 who had issues did not ask for meetings. The consultations are fly trap designs to disenfranchise people from the real impacts by enabling the designer to diffuse all the issues across many topics and locations. Then the data is removed of locations and names. Attach or separately submit images to demonstrate what is ment.

    The Judge has used a term consciencous consideration about alternatives and it may apply to a range of alternatives such as buy my house or statec the mitigation.

    It is necessary phase 2 become more articulate than the yes no and deviations of the phase 1 groups.

    It is abotu human beings and their businesses and the way communities live. Reflect and demonstrate what the situation and complaint and impact is. Do not get into the Y or speed matters and spend money eleswhere focus on explaining your situation even if you feel HS2 will not happen.

    Some people consider George Orwell advised of this type of conditioning of populations.

    State behaviour is not health when purpose is not the purpose stated. The phase 1 consultations failed to resolve of engage in issues. Phase 2 has to be wary with the larger viaduct numbers and the higher embankments and lower cuttings all adding to land takes.

    Reply

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