Simply not good enough

Question 6 for the Property Compensation consultation is, “What are your views on our proposals for a voluntary purchase scheme within a ‘rural support zone’?”. This topic was covered by Question 2 of the original consultation.

There are really two parts to this question: establishing a rural support zone, and setting up a voluntary purchase scheme to operate within that zone. The proposed rural support zone is a new name for what was called the “voluntary purchase zone” in the original consultation, except that the geographic limits of the zone have been slightly extended. The new zone limits are shown by yellow shading on the maps that have been published to support the consultation. The supporting information is in Section 4.7 and Section 4.8 of the consultation document.

Whilst the new zone will still be limited to 120 metres either side of the track centreline, it will extend a little further into London; it previously terminated at the M25, but is now proposed to extend about a further 3 kilometres in towards the Capital to Moorhall Road, Uxbridge (see map). The Government ascribes this change to it “having listened to feedback from members of the public” – so respondents to the original consultation can claim a second minor victory.

Aside from this small change the extent of the zone, the description that I gave in my blog A bit on the side (posted 2 Jan 2013) is still applicable. However, we are informed in the consultation document that the maps that have been issued to inform the current consultation “have been updated in order to reflect route re-alignments”, so if you live close to the line I suggest that you check your own map.

The second part of this question concerns the voluntary purchase scheme proposal, which is described in Section 5.1 of the consultation document. We are told that the way that this scheme will operate is “as proposed in October 2012”, so it would appear that the critique of the scheme that I set out in my blog Crossing the line (posted 16 Jan 2013) still applies. The comments that I suggested that you make about the limits of the zone and the operation of the voluntary purchase scheme for the original consultation were:

  • That excluding urban areas from the scheme is discriminatory and unfair and the Government’s defence of proposing this exclusion is insufficient reason for treating urban areas differently.
  • That the proposed compensation payments are worse than those that applied to HS1.
  • That it is unfair on landlords and owners of second homes to exclude them from the scheme.
  • That the lack of clarity regarding the treatment of properties only partially within the zone is unsatisfactory.
  • That only a small number of properties stand to benefit from the voluntary purchase scheme proposals.
  • That the use of a fixed, arbitrary width for the zone is inappropriate. The proposal should better reflect the extent of blight and the impact that track geometry and local topography will have.

The analysis of responses received to the original consultation in Chapter 6 of the Dialogue by Design report raises three additional points:

  • That the business rateable value limit of £34,800 is too low.
  • That the zone boundary should be measured from the railway fence, rather than the track centreline, to take account of the varying width of the land used by the railway.
  • That the zone boundary should be measured from the outer boundary of the safeguarded zone rather than be a fixed distance from the track centreline.

In addition, some of the comments made about the original voluntary purchase scheme proposal augment the comments already listed above. Comments that fall into this category include:

  • That it is unfair that adjacent houses that are presumably experiencing similar blight problems will be treated totally differently if the boundary of the zone happens to be drawn between them.
  • That all individual dwellings in a block, such as semi-detached and terraced homes, should be treated equally, irrespective of where the zone boundary falls.
  • That moving costs, such as stamp duty and estate agents’ fees, should be included in the compensation offered, as was the case with HS1.
  • That a home-loss payment should be made within the compensation offered, as was the case with HS1

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