Matters of principle

I start from the assumption that, if you taking the trouble to read this blog as background to making a submission to the Property Compensation Consultation 2013 for the London-West Midlands HS2 route, you have probably eschewed the easy route of reading the Consultation Summary and have opted to plough into the full Compensation Document. If this is the case then well done, you are my sort of person.

So what delights await us as we lift the paper cover? The first substantive item that will assail your eyes if you do this is a Foreword by the Transport Secretary, complete with a smiling mug shot. If, like me, your tolerance of the standard HS2 PR has sunk to a low level, I suggest that you skip this item. The same advice applies to the Introduction – you probably know it all anyway.

We then arrive at Section 1, About this consultation. This section gives more detail on the ways of responding that I outlined in my blog Time to sharpen your pencil, again (posted 27 Oct 2013) and makes the important point that, although HS2 Ltd has “targeted the publicity and the public events at those living close to Phase One of HS2”, the consultation is “open to the public at large”. This is particularly relevant to those impacted by the Phase 2 route, since this section also informs us that, whilst the Phase 2 proposals may differ from the compensation regime that is eventually agreed for Phase 1, the latter “will naturally be the starting point for [HS2 Ltd’s] approach to the long-term discretionary property compensation for Phase Two”.

You have to get to the foot of Section 3 before you find the first question of seven on which our views are being invited – I originally typed the word “sought”, but I don’t think that word is an accurate description of the way that our current government approaches public consultation, so “invited” seems a more suitable replacement. This question is one that we were not asked in the original property compensation consultation:

“QUESTION 1: What are your views on the criteria we have put forward to assess options for long-term discretionary compensation?”

Section 3 Compensation schemes – our approach to discretionary compensation summaries the Government’s take on an appropriate compensation policy. Section 2 Property and compensation provides background to the mindset that has given rise to this policy, and will be useful additional reading to help you answer the question.

However, before I move on to consider a possible response to Question 1, there are a couple of important points to note from the analysis in Section 2.

In the first place, paragraph 2.5.6 makes it clear that the Government has wiped the slate clean for the present consultation, and that any responses that you made to the earlier compensation consultation “will not be considered as part of this [current] consultation process”. The Government’s advice is clear:

“It is important that people who responded to the earlier consultation on property compensation do so again in reference to these revised policy proposals.”

Just for once, I am happy to endorse a Government statement on HS2; please, please take part in this re-run consultation. Yes you will probably have to repeat much of what you said the first time, but if you don’t undertake this chore your previous efforts will have been all for naught.

The other point worth noting is that, as the Government did not get pulled up by the High Court on the way that it consulted on properties over tunnels and the proposals to replace demolished social housing, we are told in paragraph 2.5.9 that:

“These proposals do not fall within the Government’s undertaking to consult again on property compensation. The Government will shortly announce its final decisions with regard to properties above tunnels and social housing.”

Whilst I am on the subject of tunnels, the original October 2012 Property Compensation consultation document promised, in paragraph 5.7, that a “clear, thorough and fully-evidenced assessment of the UK’s recent history of tunnelling” would be published. This has been done, as of September 2013, and two versions are available: the full report, and a “non-technical” summary version.

In Section 3 of the full document for the current consultation, the Government sets out five criteria that it says it proposes to use “to decide the most appropriate long-term discretionary property compensation scheme”. These criteria are:

  • Fairness
  • Value for money
  • Community cohesion
  • Feasibility, efficiency and comprehensibility
  • Functioning of housing market

However, we are also provided with a warning:

“The Government therefore does not expect the scheme it eventually adopts to necessarily be highly regarded under all criteria. However, it should provide – in the Government’s reasonable opinion – the best balance between the criteria.”

What we need to consider when we respond to Question 1 is whether the Government’s opinion is “reasonable” and whether its proposals represent the “best balance between the criteria”, but my own views on that will have to wait for my next posting.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on November 1, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Suggestions are the property sharks have and are buying location along the route to make a profit when the working teams need local homes. Failures in settlement or subsidence can be quickly or over one to two decades. The criteria appear obtuse and far from fair, or providing sufficient money. HS2 works against much community cohesion which has long reduced in England. Functioning of the housing market in parallel wide shock mode is much lower demand and prices per house. Feasibility, efficiency and comprehensibility is a range of criteria and what it means is very uncertain and it is questioned how it could be applied with repeatability.
    You need the media or a video for people to be enthused to repeat this process. It is required but is a hard sell currently.


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