Country houses for sale

HS2: what owners should do now

For many people, the news that HS2 is going ahead will be the worst start to the New Year imaginable. Although there is talk of further legal challenges, it’s now essential that those who have not given thought to the impact turn their minds to what steps they should now take. Naturally, these tend to revolve around compensation. The first thing to note is that, although the Government has committed itself to HS2, there is currently no mechanism in place for anybody to claim compensation, other than those who qualify for the existing Exceptional Hardship Scheme.

That will change once the route has been ‘safeguarded’. This involves the Government consulting with local authorities to identify exactly what land will be required for the scheme and putting measures in place to ensure planning permission is not granted for any other use. This process is due to be completed in the autumn. Once the route is safeguarded, various compensation schemes gradually start to kick in.

The first to take effect is Statutory Blight, although this only applies to those whose property is required for the construction or use of the railway: those whose property is on the line. Should that be the case, or in the event that the entire property is affected to the extent that it is incapable of being sold at anything other than a marked discount, then a case can be brought for the property to be compulsorily acquired in its entirety. It is not possible to bring a Statutory Blight claim where no land is required, nor is it possible in respect of only part of the property. This makes Statutory Blight claims for farms and estates unlikely and frequently impossible. It can, however, be very helpful to those living on the line of the railway.

At this point, the discretionary Exceptional Hardship Scheme will also close and be replaced with another voluntary scheme to ensure that people who have to sell their houses aren’t disadvantaged and that the local property market can still function. Details of this have yet to be announced, so it’s difficult to advise on how helpful it might be. It may be possible for those adversely affected to negotiate directly with the Government in respect of small disposals of land to facilitate the construction of the railway and in place of a later compensation claim.

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This will not be relevant for everyone, but, in some cases, it may be worthy of consideration. Once the enabling legislation has been passed by Parliament by early 2014, Compulsory Purchase Orders will be made and Notices To Treat served. This is the trigger point for those from whom land will be required who wish to claim through Compulsory Purchase and Compensation procedures.

The bad news for those whose property is not required for either the construction or use of HS2 is that, unless they qualify for the voluntary hardship compensation scheme, they can only start making compensation claims for any loss of value due to the proximity of the railway one year after it has been first used-anticipated to be 2026. It’s worth noting that, at this point, compensation will be available for tangible effects such as noise, fumes and vibrations, but not for the loss of a beautiful view.

In summary, for thosewhere no land is likely to be required, there is little that can be done now other than to ensure that the title and occupational structure is in the best possible shape so as to justify a valid and legitimate claim when allowed. Although it will be little recompense, those affected should draw some consolation from the fact that, as is usual with compulsory purchase, the reasonable professional fees of the surveyor and solicitor acting for the claimant are covered by the acquiring authority.

Need to know

The Government plans to introduce:

  • A streamlined purchase scheme to simplify the Statutory Blight process
  • A sale-and-rent-back scheme to give homeowners within the safeguarded area more flexibility
  • A streamlined small-claims scheme for construction damage
  • A package of measures

to reinforce confidence in properties above tunnels

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