The deadline for the HS2 property compensation consultation exercise passed last week, and the Gazette has been given the reponse of Sir John Randall (Con, Uxbridge and South Ruislip) and Nick Hurd (Con, Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner).

We print them in full below.

The government is expected to announce revised compensation terms in the new year.

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Sir John Randall MP

The Government’s fresh consultation on this issue provided an opportunity to rethink some of the proposals set out in the original consultation – and this the Government has done.

I support the principle that the proposals for compensation must go above and beyond statutory compensation for the reasons the Government has outlined.

I further welcome the steps that have been taken in this consultation to improve compensation upon the original 2012 consultation. Unfortunately the proposals do not go far enough for my constituents in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. I set out reasons in the response.

Yours sincerely

Rt Hon Sir John Randall MP

Consultation questions

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

a. The consultation does not reveal the weighting that will be applied to each of the five criteria.

b. The “fairness” criterion – under which only those owner-occupiers whose properties (and property values) are “most directly and specifically affected” by the proposals are compensated (according to the description in Paragraph 3.1.2) – is too narrow. It is fair that help is afforded to all residents who will be affected by HS2, in proportion to their blight.

c. The “value for money” criterion seeks to ensure that “any risks relating to the costs of property schemes can be effectively managed within HS2’s long-term funding settlement” (Paragraph 3.1.3). This is the wrong way round. HS2’s long-term funding settlement must be determined by the costs of the property schemes, and not vice-versa.

2. What are your views on our proposals for an express purchase scheme?

a. I welcome the Government’s recognition that the Blight Notice/Counter-Notice process can be stressful and time-consuming and thus its proposal to accept Blight Notices from all eligible property owners within the safeguarded area and to not require property owners to make ‘all reasonable endeavours’ to sell their property on the open market before accepting a Blight Notice. However there is a concern that, beyond the statutory compensation, the Government has introduced no proposal to address compensation for property owners who are ineligible under the statutory system, namely large businesses and landlords of properties. For many people, rental properties can be an alternative source of income and act as a pension fund. Some may have invested in property instead of a corporate pension. To exclude these groups arguably punishes hard-working people who have done the right thing by saving for their future.

b. Paragraph 4.2.19 notes that the approach to express purchase would not “normally apply” in those areas where safeguarding had been put in place to protect land above deep-bored tunnels or any other sub-surface works. It is not explained when the express purchase scheme would be applied in those circumstances. This is of particular importance to constituents in Hillingdon where tunnelling will be extensive.

c. There is no clarification on the deadline after which no Blight Notices can be served.

3. What are your views on the proposed long-term hardship scheme?

a. Underlying the principle behind 2a, it is similarly unfair to restrict the LTHS to residential owner-occupiers – excluding landlords and businesses that may have a pressing need to sell or relocate. A landlord may, for instance, require funds for their retirement, whilst a business may need to relocate to meet changing business needs.

b. The reduction in the marketing period to satisfy the ‘effort to sell’ criterion from 12 months to 6 months is welcome. Despite this, a 6-month marketing period is potentially at odds with the ‘hardship’ criterion in which an applicant must show a ‘need to sell’.

c. There is no description of the duration of LTHS or the commencement and end dates of the scheme.

d. Paragraph 4.3.30 notes the proposal to produce a ‘detailed guidance document’ for applications to the LTHS. To reassure and respond more effectively to residents who are in hardship, the Government may wish to consider the provision of a helpline.

e. There is no description on the rules by which panel decisions are made – particularly whether they require unanimity or a majority.

4. What are your views on the ‘sale and rent back’ scheme?

a. The Government proposes not to extend the scheme to second home owners or landlords yet reserves the right “to make exceptions under certain circumstances”. There is no clarification as to what these circumstances might be.

b. The value for money test must take into account the risk of vacancy (lost market rent) in the case where a tenant gives notice.

c. Paragraph 4.5.11 notes that sale and rent back tenants would not be allowed to sub-let the property. It is unclear if tenants would be able to sub-let part of the property.

5. What are your views on our alternative proposals for renting properties to their previous owners?

a. The underlying principle – that the rental of properties to their previous owners need not be restricted to those properties that the Government expect to demolish – is welcome.

6. What are your views on our proposals for a voluntary purchase scheme within a ‘rural support zone’?

a. Residents in Hillingdon will be understandably very concerned that the rural support zone currently excludes all but the boundary of the London Borough of Hillingdon. It is arbitrary to exclude areas of a clearly rural character.

b. I reiterate the concern in 2a: landlords and large businesses will be ineligible for the voluntary purchase scheme under the proposals.

7. What are your views on the option to introduce a ‘time-based’ property bond scheme within a ‘rural support zone’ as an alternative to the voluntary purchase scheme?

a. I again reiterate the principle behind 2a: the property bond scheme proposal is restricted to residential owner-occupiers. This excludes businesses and landlords.

b. The voluntary purchase scheme includes various eligible property owners (not just residential owner-occupiers) and, as stated in paragraph 5.2.28, would not require property owners to offer their properties for sale in the marketplace – “preferred by many eligible property owners because it would be likely to offer them a quicker and more certain sale process”. In these respects a voluntary purchase zone is more favourable than the proposed property bond scheme. However, it is difficult to choose a scheme when the boundary for the property bond scheme remains undecided. If, for instance, the boundary turns out greater than the 120m proposed boundary for the voluntary purchase scheme, this would at least offer support to one group not addressed by the voluntary purchase scheme: the residential owner-occupiers affected by ‘remote’ (i.e. over 120m) blight.

 

Nick Hurd MP

I represent the constituency of Ruislip Northwood and Pinner. Three wards in that constituency will be significantly impacted by HS2.

They are Ickenham, Harefield and West Ruislip. As things stand, residents in those wards are being asked to pay a big price for a national project that will deliver no direct benefit to them or the community.

Under these circumstances, it should be a priority for Government to ensure that the compensation package is seen to be fair. That is categorically not the case with these proposals. The fundamental problem is the lack of a mechanism that recognises property blight in a fair way.

The Environmental Statement is a grim read for many of my constituents. In essence the centre of Ickenham will have to endure a major construction site for 8 years to service the West Ruislip Tunnel Portal. In addition there will be another construction site on the edge of the village for 18 months.

Residents will face significant traffic impacts for 18 months on Ickenham Road as materials will be required to be transported onto the site for the construction of the tunnel portal. In addition residents will endure up to 1,000 HGV movements a day on Harvil Road for a year. Although this activity will peak in 2017 there will be significant impact on Harvil Road for an estimated 10 years. Residents in Harefield also face years of disruption associated with construction sites planned for the viaduct across the Colne Valley. Increased HGV movements from these proposed construction sites will add to traffic flow on Harvil Road and into Swakeleys Road for a proposed 3 years and 9 months.

The Environmental Statement offers little in the way of clarity or reassurance as to the extent of potential noise and light pollution associated with the construction hubs in addition to the traffic impacts.

In Ickenham the construction site associated with the tunnel portal will affect residents in The Greenway, Hoylake Crescent, Breakspear Road South, Copthall Road West and Harvil Road. 30 residential properties in The Greenway stand to be significantly blighted by construction noise both day and night for a projected period of up to 24 months with a further 15 properties in The Greenway facing daytime construction noise and 10 dwellings on Breakspear Road South face daytime noise from for up to 13 months.

Once the line is in its operational phase approximately 200 dwellings in the vicinity of The Greenway, Hoylake Crescent, Pynchester Close, Bushey Road and Copthall Road West will be affected by noise from the projected 18 (at full capacity) trains per hour, despite the mitigation measures. The Environmental Statement refers to this blight as “likely to cause a moderate adverse effect on the acoustic character of the area around the closest properties.” I believe this provides little reassurance to the residents in these roads.

Traffic and noise are not the only impacts. The area is set to suffer a significant loss of amenity. The views over the Colne Valley are treasured and many residents feel that they will be permanently spoiled by the proposed viaduct. There is no visibility of the future for the Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre (HOAC) or the West Ruislip Golf Club and Rifle Club.

The current HS2 plan is to include areas for the “sustainable placement” of excavated

materials. These large amounts of excavated soil from the Brackenbury and Copthall cuttings on three sites on the edge Ickenham and West Ruislip and a further site in south-east of South Harefield. These sites will cause significant and lasting change to the land profile, raising it by 3 metres.

These imacts will affect the quality of life for a significant number of residents for a long period of time. The main point that needs to be asserted is that the effects of property blight associated with HS2 are already a reality for many residents and have had significant impact upon house sales and valuations in the adjacent area and beyond, this has been confirmed by testimonials from local estate agents and residents.

Consultation questions

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

The criteria appear to be fair in principle but many constituents have reservations about the practicalities of applying them equally along with concerns as to who will have overall responsibility for the decision making process. There is also a consistent theme throughout the document that the compensation arrangements must provide value for money for the tax payer. Whilst I agree with the principle, this must not be to the detriment of those who stand to lose their homes or businesses and have their lives disrupted through no fault of their own. It is therefore of utmost importance that those administrating the scheme demonstrate consistency and transparency across the decision making process. The final scheme should ensure that everyone who has suffered a loss as a result of the HS2 scheme is adequately compensated.

2. What are your views on our proposals for an express purchase scheme?

As things stand this will not be relevant to the majority of affected homes in my constituency, because it relates only to the safeguarded zone. I note that the scheme now being proposed has now changed to an express purchase scheme reflecting the fact that there is no longer a requirement that owners of property needed for construction or operation would have to demonstrate reasonable endeavours to sell their property.

I note and am inclined to support the view of Hillingdon Council that the 10 per cent home-loss payment is not sufficient and the cap should be removed.

3. What are your views on the proposed long-term hardship scheme?

As stated above, I believe that this scheme is fundamentally flawed as an offer to my constituents. It is too restrictive. Hardship should not be the basis of eligibility: it should be reasonable proof of blight. That is the only fair basis on which to proceed. The existing hardship scheme has done nothing to alleviate blight in the area and this proposal will not improve the situation. In fact, I do not believe that many people want to move out of an area they know and love because of HS2. What they do want is protection against loss if they need to move, for whatever reason, and HS2 means that they face a financial penalty. If this proposal is the only offer on the table then it may force more people to try and sell and claim. That is not what Government should be incentivising. For these reasons, I believe that a property bond is a more relevant and fair mechanism for addressing blight.

If the Government persists with this proposal, then the criteria needs to be softened to allow for circumstances such as a desire to downsize or divorce as has been argued by Ickenham Residents’ Association. Six months is still too long a period for testing the market appetite for a property. I also wish to echo local concerns that decisions for this or any other scheme chosen should be made by an entirely independent panel and that there should also be a wholly independent appeals process for those wishing to reapply having been previously rejected. This is based on the experience of many constituents through the Exceptional Hardship Scheme. Individuals reapplying should also be permitted to appear in front of the decisions panel in person or by way of representation. The proposed scheme seems to discourage re-applications therefore the criteria should encompass a degree of flexibility but retain transparency in order that appeals are not rejected out of hand for the same reasons as the original application.

4. What are your views on the 'sale and rent back' scheme?

I echo sentiments of London Borough of Hillingdon that the introduction of a scheme to allow property owners to rent back their property until it is required for construction is welcomed. However, it is unfair that business owners will be exempt from the scheme. I recognise that the Government has agreed that there may need to be some greater flexibility on this issue and discretion will be used on a case by case basis. However, there is little explanation as to what type of tenancy will be given and what protection will be afforded to tenants who do qualify.

5.What are your views on our alternative proposals for renting properties to their previous owners?

Whilst this appears to be a better option than the sale and rent back scheme a number of misgivings remain not least that the type of tenancy envisaged has not been spelt out although it has to be questioned whether an assured short hold tenancy would offer individuals the type of long term security of tenure which they would want.

It is considered that two of the specific proposals set out are unfair. Firstly, home loss payments and reasonable moving costs should be payable to all home owners and should not be restricted to owner-occupiers who are eligible to serve a Blight Notice. Secondly, references to the Crichel Down Rules should also apply to all home-owners and should not be restricted only to homes that are in the safeguarded area.

6. What are your views on our proposals for a voluntary purchase scheme within a 'rural support zone'? And 7: What are your views on the option to introduce a property bond scheme within a 'rural support zone' as an alternative to the voluntary purchase scheme?

Whilst I have replied to each question separately, I believe I may answer these together as my constituency is not in a ‘rural zone’; therefore the same applies to both questions.

My fundamental point is to challenge the discrimination against urban and suburban areas. This is fundamentally unfair. To date I have not seen a logical argument to support why my constituency should be disadvantaged due to its classification of ‘urban’, and thus unable to apply for the proposed Voluntary Purchase Scheme or Property Bond. Similar properties in similar landscapes face being treated in different ways because of an arbitrary judgement that is not supported by any evidence.

In the case of Harefield it appears especially illogical as it is in most parts, a rural ward, yet it falls within the Greater London boundary. As Harefield Tenants' and Residents' Association point out on Moorhall Road, Korda Lake is defined as rural whereas Savay Lake is defined as urban. This brings into question the working definition of ‘rural’ and ‘urban’. I am also not in agreement with the sentiments of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Robert Goodwill MP, who in a letter to me dated November 26, stated that the decision for using the Greater London boundary for the outer limits of the rural support zone was because “blighting effects of infrastructure schemes are more readily felt in rural areas as opposed to urban ones.” This is not true, and constituents and local estate agents agree.

Because of my constituency's classification of ‘urban’, those that will be ‘significantly’ affected will receive different compensation to those ‘significantly’ affected a few miles up the road, for example in Denham which also falls in the Colne Valley area.

Both the Rural Support Zone (RSZ) and a Property Bond Scheme should be available to those in an ‘urban’ classified area, and around tunnelled sections. The Department for Transport’s proposals envisage either a Voluntary Purchase Zone (VPZ) or a property bond operating within a Rural Support Zone. Both should be included in the final compensation package with the property bond advocated by the HS2 Action Alliance operating outside the outer boundary of the Voluntary Purchase Zone.

The inclusion of both a VPZ and a Property Bond Scheme will ensure constituents that live just outside the safeguarding zone have immediate access to compensation while those slightly further away but whose properties are still blighted by HS2 have the guarantee that should they wish to move they will not have to suffer a financial penalty to do so.

I do not accept the Department for Transport’s argument for introducing a fixed outer boundary of 120m from the centre of the line in relation to the Voluntary Purchase Zone. This does not take into account topography, noise, construction of the line and construction sites all of which will have an effect on the impact HS2 will have. The Voluntary Purchase Zone should vary in size depending on the impact HS2 will have at a particular location to ensure all those severely affected by HS2 have immediate access to compensation. It is also important that some form of additional compensation payment is made, as was the case with HS1, to individual whose properties fall within the Voluntary Purchase Zone to allow them to move with no cost or penalty to themselves. It is unfair for the Department for Transport to claim the compensation package being offered to those affected by HS2 is the same as HS1 when it is clear the HS1 compensation scheme in some areas was significantly more generous for properties 60-120m from the centre of the line. Moreover, data re-leased by HS2 Ltd shows that around half of successful Exceptional Hardship Scheme applications are further than 200m from HS2 and the HS2 Action Alliance that one application was accepted despite the property being situated 1.1km from the proposed route.

If the Government insists on a fixed outer boundary, then there should be a mechanism for people outside that limit to apply for a bond at their own risk. To ensure that all affected properties are entitled to compensation I would suggest that eligibility is based on blight and specifically the failure to sell a property within a percentage of its un-blighted market value as a result of the HS2 scheme. HS2 Action Alliance’s research using Hometrack data shows that the average price a property is sold at in Greater London, the South East and West Midlands is 92.5 per cent of its asking price which suggests to me that the threshold for acti-vating the bond should be around 92-93 per cent of the un-blighted value of the property.

The Property Bond I am in favour of us HS2 Action Alliance’s proposed ‘time-based’ bond scheme, under which property owners could have their properties purchased following a marketing period and would not be defined by any kind of boundary, and would be available to owners of property in urban areas, and around proposed tunnelled sections, on the same basis as they would be available to other property owners. This Bond will provide a guaran-tee to homeowners that would ensure that if you cannot sell your home on the private mar-ket the Department for Transport will purchase your property at its un-blighted value.

Therefore with this guarantee people will be more inclined to stay and see what the impact of construction and operation of HS2 will be before making the decision on whether to move. The introduction of a Long Term Hardship Scheme will have the opposite effect with people seeking to apply as soon as possible due to the perceived view that it will be difficult to be accepted and potentially require several applications over a long period of time.

The HS2 Action Alliance’s Property Bond is also designed to encourage properties to be sold on the private market, and not to ensure property owners can sell to the Department for Transport. This will ensure compensations costs are kept to a minimal as bonds will change hands to the next owner when purchased; therefore creating a cheaper alternative as very few properties would have to be purchased. This will also ensure that all those affected by HS2 are compensated if they suffer a loss.

The Department for Transport's Property Bond Scheme does not allow for those that have an urgency to sell their property to do so, requiring the property to be on the market for six months before becoming eligible for the property bond. While I appreciate this has been decreased from 12 months from the last Property Compensation Consultation, I believe this should lowered to three months as is the case with the Exceptional Hardship Scheme.

Conclusion

My constituents are aware that this second consultation was forced on the Government by the judicial review. The substance of the offer has not changed for the area and to make matters worse, my constituents are excluded from the property bond and VPZ options by some arbitrary distinction between blight in rural and urban areas that has no evidence base.

My strong suggestion is that an overly restrictive Long Term Hardship scheme is jettisoned in favour of BOTH a VPZ and a Property Bond to cover areas outside the VPZ. There should be no distinction between urban and rural and no boundary limits to a bond structure. The only eligibility criteria that matters is proof of blight and failure to sell a property at a percentage of unblighted market value as a result of HS2. The basic requirement of a compensation package is to ensure that local people affected by HS2 should not incur financial penalties.

On this basis, the current package is inadequate and reflects little more than what is required by law or offered by HS1. I urge the Government to be more imaginative in coming forward with a final proposal that is seen to be fair to the large number of people for whom HS2 is all pain and no gain.

Estate Agent Case Studies

Swakeleys Estates - Steven Cornish (director) : "HS2 has had a marked affect upon the market place for properties within the areas that you have mentioned. As an example, we have recently taken on to the market a fine, 3-bed detached family house on Breakspear Road South for £569,950. It has been advertised for three weeks and only had three viewings in that time! Before the HS2 was announced we would have been inundated with prospective purchasers, but now it’s completely different and it has blighted this particular property!”

Gibbs Gillespie – James Gillespie (director), Lisa Heather (Ruislip Manager) and Luke Allday (Ruislip Manor Manager): “West Ruislip and Ickenham are areas that are blighted already and there are properties which have been unsuccessfully marketed and have now been withdrawn from the market due to the negativity surrounding the HS2.

"In Ickenham and Ruislip we have had buyers that have asked for substantial reductions in the price that was agreed, once the HS2 was raised on the searches."

With regards to traffic in the Ruislip and Ickenham area, "... it is already hard enough to get around at peak times already especially when there are road works, it will be appalling if estimates of extra traffic are correct.”

Gibbs Gillespie also provided the office with an extract from a survey report that was carried out recently on a property they are selling.

“The property is very close to the proposed HS2 rail link although in this area it is understood that the link, if constructed, will be in a tunnel. Notwithstanding this there will be short term inconvenience while works are being undertaken and this could have an effect on future value and saleability. You are advised to fully appraise yourself of these proposals for HS2.”

Residents' case studies

Brian Adams, 48 Breakspear Road South, Ickenham.

Having lived at 48 Breakspear Road South, Ickenham for 37 years, the couple took an interest only mortgage (to be repaid by 2017) to assist their 2 children to put a deposit down on a house. Before the HS2 Draft Environmental Statement (DES) was published (which was the first time a Harvil Road construction site was made public), the house was put on the market and valued at £625,000. After the HS2 DES was published, they had a few viewings initially, to date have had no offers, and the viewings have dried up.

At the age of 70, they would like to repay their mortgage and downsize. They are now considering having to reduce the value significantly (as it appears the Hardship Scheme demands) which would mean they could pay their mortgage but not have enough to buy a new property in the locality.”

Jennifer Gray, Ivy House Road, Ickenham.

“Two residents on Ivy House Road, Ickenham have had difficulties selling their properties. One of which, when the property eventually sold, decreased the value by £20,000 with the cited reason: ‘HS2’.“

Mr Jeganraj, 101 The Greenway, Ickenham

“Since putting a 4 bedroom detached property on the market, Mr Jeganraj and his wife have had two sales fall through due to HS2 searches by the solicitors advising the buyers not to purchase. He was also declined compensation twice.

"Mr Jeganraj has now told me he wants to go to go to a solicitor at his own cost to appeal. He has always wanted to sell the property and never wanted to let.”