Time to sharpen your pencil, again

One clear-cut decision that came from the High Court judicial review held at the end of last year was that the consultation on property compensation included within the more widely-based HS2 consultation than ran from February to July of 2011 was, as Mr Justice Ouseley summarised in a phrase that has been often quoted since, “so unfair as to be unlawful”. The Government accepted this finding and agreed that the decision announced by the Secretary of State in January 2012 – Rt Hon Justine Greening MP at the time – to take forward only the “refreshed hardship” scheme to a second consultation should be “set aside”. This means that this second consultation, which ran from October 2012 to January 2013, had no legal basis and would have to be rerun, based upon rewritten Government proposals.

Those of us who are actively engaged in the campaign against HS2 regularly come across decent people, of the sort that the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer often cite as paragons of citizenship, who have suffered demonstrable financial loss, certainly in the tens of thousands of pounds and sometimes in six figures, due to the plans for HS2. Many are trapped in homes that generate very little purchaser interest if they are offered for sale. Many, many more are suffering a paper loss in property value, which can scupper remortgage or down-sizing plans or reduce the value of the inheritance that can be passed to children. For such people effectively to have to subsidise the HS2 project out of their own pockets is galling enough, but for that cost to be ignored when assessing the overall price tag to the UK of HS2 is totally beyond the Pale – especially when intangible benefits, such as time savings by businessmen, are taken into account in the BCR.

It seemed back in December 2010 that the Government understood this. The then Transport Secretary, Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, told the House of Commons (column 1203 in the Hansard report for 20th December 2010):

“Where a project that is in the national interest imposes significant financial loss on individuals, I believe it is right and proper that they should be compensated fairly for that loss.”

He added, when responding on the same occasion to comments by the Shadow Transport Secretary (column 1207):

“I have indicated that we will seek to go further than has happened with such previous infrastructure schemes in the UK, because it is right and proper that individuals who suffer serious financial loss in the national interest should be compensated.”

In his judgement Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that, while he did “not find it difficult to accept that this was encouraging and reassuring to the members of HS2AA and the many others affected”, he regarded the Transport’s Secretary’s declaration as “not so clear, unambiguous and devoid of relevant qualification that it could found a legitimate expectation”. That Mr Hammond was surely aware that the inclusion of undefined qualifiers, such as “significant” and “fairly”, made what some listening may have taken as a firm promise into meaningless claptrap is a view that subsequently published proposals have served to reinforce. The Government is quite clearly prepared to leave the vast majority of home owners that are affected by the HS2 proposals high and dry.

The inevitable outcome of Mr Justice Ouseley’s ruling was that we would be invited, at some stage, to respond to yet another consultation on HS2 property compensation. That time has come; the Government launched the HS2 Property Compensation Consultation 2013, which applies to the compensation proposals for Phase 1 only, on 12th September and it runs until 4th December. I realise that the prospect of yet another HS2 consultation is hardly an appealing one, particularly as this is the second attempt on the same subject. However, the effort that we all put in around the turn of the year in responding to the “mark one” consultation has not been entirely wasted, as HS2 Ltd has published an analysis of the responses that it received then, written by those kings of the mislaid response Dialogue by Design. This might prove a valuable reference document when thinking about what to say this time, particularly as the philosophy that has been applied to the new document appears to have been to make as few changes to the mark one version as possible, whilst giving the appearance of having heeded Mr Justice Ouseley’s censure.

Electronic copies of the documents issued in support of the consultation may be accessed here. These documents are:

  • Property Compensation Consultation 2013 for the London-West Midlands HS2 route: Consultation document.
  • Property Compensation Consultation 2013 for the London-West Midlands HS2 route: Consultation summary.
  • HS2 London-West Midlands Property Compensation Consultation 2013: How to respond.
  • Property Compensation Consultation 2013 for the London-West Midlands HS2 route: Response form.
  • Property Compensation Consultation 2013 for the London-West Midlands HS2 route: Consultation leaflet and events schedule.
  • Access to the Consultation Documents (list of libraries holding paper copies of the documentation).
  • Maps, in six volumes.

There is also a telephone order line to request hard copies of documents to be posted to you.

Old hands will be familiar with the ways that it is possible to respond to the consultation, which encompass completing an on-line form, or submitting comments by e-mail or post – a pre-printed response form is available to facilitate responding by post.

You may recall that at the time of the mark one consultation I posted a series of blogs that were designed to help anybody contemplating more than a cursory response. Much of what I said then is still relevant now, but we have a different set of seven questions to answer, some different terminology and changes to the details of the proposals. What I propose to do therefore is to spend the next series of postings looking at the questions that we have been asked to consider, and using a combination of new material and references back to material posted earlier this year to provide some pointers to those contemplating responding to the consultation; hopefully that will include all readers of this blog.

It is important that as many people as possible respond to the consultation re-run. The Government’s revised proposals will still leave the vast majority of the victims of HS2 blight uncompensated, and it is essential that, if you think that this is unfair, you register that view with the Government.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on October 27, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    This presentation is also worthwhile posting on the other help HS2 victims web pages.

    Some people did not respond the first time and many were not aware.

    The Parish Clerks may also help distrbute the awareness and sources of information along with the District and County Councils.

    Reply

    • Thanks for that vote of confidence Chris. I am still writing the series on the Property Compensation consultation and so I am not sure at the moment how it will turn out, but I hope it will be of use. Obviously I am not in a position to control whether my bogs are posted elsewhere, but they are freely available to anyone who wants to post them on their own site.

      Reply

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