Human rights and human wrongs, part 2

(… continued from Human rights and human wrongs, part 1, posted on 21 Apr 2017).

Mr Gilbert Nockles (see footnote 1) told the Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee that he and his wife, Sally, were facing a “financial catastrophe”. The couple, who live in the hamlet of Potter Row near Great Missenden in the Chilterns, were retired with a “substantially reduced” income and with a matured mortgage loan to discharge. Their financial plan had been to sell their current house to repay the mortgage and “release the pension money that [they] have invested in it”. Their house had been on the market for two and a half years and, in an attempt to drum-up interest, the estate agent had recommended a reduction in the advertised price from £1.75 million to £1.25 million: Mr Nockles told the Committee that “HS2 is the only reason that the house cannot be sold” and that it “cannot be right that [he and his wife] have to bear a loss of £0.5 million because of HS2”.

The couple applied to the NTS scheme “confident an application would succeed”, but had been refused twice. Mr Nockles told the Committee:

“We’ve submitted nearly 300 pages of evidence: 131 pages of financial information, 89 pages of bank and account details. Every request and question has been answered, however detailed or frankly intrusive. We evidenced 100% of our income, the income received, and 93% of our expenditure for a six month period. Our financial assets and liabilities were stated.”

The grounds for this, frankly mystifying, refusal to compensate are that the NTS Panel would not accept that the Nockles have a compelling reason to sell in the expectation that the mortgage lender would be prepared to extend the loan term until such time as the house is sold – a prospect that Mr Nockles regarded as “remote”. As he stood before the Committee, Mr Nockles was facing the very real threat of a possession order when the current loan extension period, with eight months left to run, expired.

Mr Nigel French (see footnote 2) made representations to the Committee on behalf of small business owners: he and his wife, who are residents of Twford in Buckinghamshire, are “owners and directors of two small businesses”. He said that prospective lenders to entrepreneurs who wished to invest in their businesses were “looking for security to underwrite and guarantee their lending”, and “the first question they ask is ‘do you own your house?’”. He told the Committee of his “experience already of a valuation being hindered by the HS2 scheme and a subsequent remortgage offer”, where the valuation of his house had been “in excess of 40%” down on what had been expected, and the written valuation had “even referred to HS2 as a ‘bad neighbour’”. He commented, somewhat wryly:

“The words ‘engine for growth’ will mean little if the scheme is hindering a director’s ability to borrow money for capital investment in his own business.”

Mr David Jones (see footnote 3) told the Committee that he and his wife had invested their life savings in their house in The Lee, near Great Missenden in the Chilterns, and had paid a premium of “approximately 25%, compared with a similar house elsewhere … somewhere like Chesham, the neighbouring village or town” in order to live in such a coveted spot. He explained that advancing age and ill health were making it increasingly difficult for him and his wide to manage the property and that they had, accordingly, applied to the NTS scheme, but that they had “little expectation of great success”.

Faced with the expectation that HS2 will reduce the attractiveness of the village to house buyers and that, in the normal course of events, the couple will not be able to recover the premium that they paid to move there, Mr Jones asked the Committee: “How much do you believe that we, as the residents of this area, should lose in order for HS2 to proceed?” And added:

“To put that into perspective for you, my father was a police constable in London; my mother, a school cook. I’ve worked hard all through my life, as has my wife, so that we can afford to live in a new place. That money, that saving, that work is out of the window unless something can be done to recompense us.”

(To be concluded …)

Footnotes:

  1. The circumstances of the Nockles’ plight and Mr Nockles’ quotes are taken from paragraphs 33 to 42 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 25thNovember 2015. I have given only a very brief summary, and I recommend that you read the full transcript to learn the full horror of the treatment that has been meted out to the couple by HS2 Ltd and the NTS Panel; treatment that Mr Nockles described as “vexatious”.
  2. Mr French’s quotes are taken from paragraphs 349 and 350 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Thursday 22nd October 2015.
  3. Mr Jones’ story and his quotes are taken from paragraphs 75 to 85 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Monday 14th September 2015. I have made a correction to the quote extracted from paragraph 79, confirmed by viewing the video of the session.

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee from which the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken are uncorrected transcripts of evidence, which are not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

 

 

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