Low calorie sweeteners

The shutters will shortly be coming down on the sixth – yes our opinions have been sought on an unbelievable six occasions – public consultation on the Government’s property compensation proposals for the HS2 project. This sixth consultation closes at 23:45 hrs on Tuesday 30th September.

Regular readers of this blog may recall that I went to town on my analysis of the 2012 to 2013 consultation for the Phase 1 proposals – that was the one that was required to be rerun on the instructions of a High Court judge – by sixteen postings during December 2012 and January 2013, beginning with Keeping things safe, posted on 29 Dec 2012.

Within a few months we found out that rerunning a consultation was not the same thing as rethinking the proposals. With the exception that the rerun consultation offered an optional property bond scheme, but one that was half-baked and clearly designed to be easily dismissed by the Government subsequent to the consultation, the proposals were the same old ones dusted off and with a few minor tweaks. Nevertheless, I provided a detailed analysis in twelve blogs posted in October and November 2013, beginning with Time to sharpen your pencil, again, posted on 27 Oct 2013.

So you may think it strange that, as the final few grains of sand trickle through the hour glass for the Property Consultation 2014, I have yet to comment on this latest Government exercise in seeking, but apparently subsequently largely ignoring, the views of the general public and interested organisations. I’m afraid that I have found it difficult to get interested in this latest exercise, something that is very much to my discredit, but there have been more interesting – at least to me – events going on that I wanted to bring to your attention. I also have to admit that I am suffering badly from consultation fatigue, made worse by the feeling that it is all a waste of time. However, this is just not good enough; I – and you if you haven’t responded to the consultation yet – need to pull our collective socks up and send in a response whilst there is still time.

If you are looking for a fairly concise critique of the proposals that you can use to craft your own response, then the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) has produced a four-page briefing note. The same organisation has produced a factsheet that summarises facts and figures that you may wish to quote. Alternatively, if you want to avoid the drudge of thinking up your own words, then HS2AA has made available a standard response that only requires you to fill in name, address and e-mail details and click a “submit” button. Stop HS2 has a similar facility, dubbed a “two minute response form”.

As with previous consultations, if you eschew the two “quick” methods provided by the national anti-HS2 campaign organisations, you can submit your loving-crafted personal response in a variety of ways. The Government website offers a consultation response form, in pdf format, that you can download and complete. Completed response forms submitted by post (see footnote) will be accepted if posted on or before the closing date of 30th September, or you can e-mail the form to HS2PropertyConsultation2014@dialoguebydesign.com. Alternatively, you can register to respond on-line.

The consultation document makes it clear that the Government considers the bulk of the compensation regime for HS2 Phase 1 to be settled, and that it is “not re-opening consultation” on the four schemes: express purchase, voluntary purchase, need to sell, and rent back (paragraph 1.1.3). The consultation is aimed at eliciting views on two new proposals that the Government is proposing to add to the discretionary schemes on offer (paragraph 1.1.1). However, I don’t see why this should restrict you from saying what you think about the complete package that will be in force and both of the “quick” methods provided by the national anti-HS2 campaign organisations express dissatisfaction with the “agreed” schemes as well as the two new ones.

Question 1 of the consultation asks for your views on the proposals set out in the consultation document for an “alternative cash offer”. Question 2 is similar, but asks for views on the proposals for a “homeowner payment”.

The alternative cash offer scheme is intended as “an incentive for property owners to remain in the community” (paragraph 2.1.3). However, this alternative will be on offer only to those who already qualify for the voluntary purchase scheme and only as an alternative to selling under that scheme. Those who opt not to sell would become eligible for a cash offer of 10% of the unblighted market value of their property, subject to a minimum payment of £30,000 and a maximum of £100,000. To describe the alternative cash offer scheme as somewhat unambitious in its scope is probably to flatter it. The HS2AA briefing note estimates that the owners of as few as 348 properties may come within the scope of the voluntary purchase scheme and, thus, be eligible to opt for the alternative cash offer. Setting the cash payment at 10% means also that the cash on offer is unlikely to bridge the gap between unblighted and blighted market value in most cases.

The homeowner payment scheme also offers a cash payment that is, bizarrely, intended, according to paragraph 3.1.2 of the consultation document, to enable some people who would be affected by HS2 to “share in the benefits of HS2, as it would run near them but will not provide them with a direct benefit”. Again the offer is somewhat underwhelming. Whilst it is welcome in that it provides some relief for the owners of properties farther than 120 metres from the line, it only extends the cut-off to 300 metres. The sums on offer are also very miserly. The HS2AA briefing note characterises the claim that the scheme is aimed at allowing HS2-blighted home owners to share in the benefits of HS2 as “absurd” and “an affront to those affected”. According to HS2AA the cash to be shared out by this scheme will amount to £20million, which is “tiny [at] 0.1% of the claimed benefits for phase 1”.

What is clear is that neither of these schemes should be considered as paying compensation. No attempt has been made in the consultation document to relate the level proposed for payments to actual loss. In this respect the proposals do not appear to adhere to the principle of equivalence – a cornerstone of the Government’s statutory compensation policy – that I explained in my blog Crumbs of comfort (posted 4 Jan 2013). All in all it is difficult to see the proposals as anything other than sweeteners, and as I suggest in the title of this blog, if they are sweeteners they don’t have much calorific value.

Footnote: The postal address for responses is:

Freepost RTET-YGJB-GUAY
HS2 Property Consultation 2014
PO Box 70718
London
WC1A 9HS

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Incredibly there is still absolutely nothing on offer for those in urban areas. NOTHING at all! Living close to the throat at Euston Station, where the line is out of tunnel, there is a predicted 10 years of heavy construction to go through and no compensation on offer. Not even to those who live literally overlooking the lines. This is not to put down the terrible effects in rural areas, but it seems totally iniquitous that those in urban areas have been overlooked again.

    Reply

    • It’s not quite true to say that “nothing” is on offer for those in urban areas; you are eligible for the express purchase and need to sell schemes, assuming that you meet the appropriate criteria of course. However, I do agree with you 100% that urban dwellers are being very shabbily treated when it comes to compensation. The official reason appears to be that you will hardly notice HS2 in an urban environment, but I suspect that the real reason is to do with the cost.

      Reply

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