Alec's June email on immigration to the constituency
HS2 – Exceptional Hardship Scheme Consultation
Alec has made the following submission to the consultation on what should be the qualifying criteria for those affected in the planning and construction stages of HS2.
The deadline for submission has now been extended to Monday 20th May 2013. You can read supporting documents for the consultation here.
Do you agree or disagree that the Department for Transport should introduce an Exceptional Hardship Scheme for Phase Two ahead of decisions on how to proceed with the routes? What are your reasons?
Yes, most definitely. Blight was put upon my constituents from the moment the line was drawn on the map and made public. Since the announcement, my constituents have seen house sales fall through; others have had to halt retirement plans which were based on selling their property in the next year. My constituents have not been able to sell their homes or remortgage since this proposal was made public and this has caused immediate financial blight. In one instance, I met with constituents who had planned to sell their home and use the equity to buy a larger house allowing them to start a family. The reduction in house value has led them to reconsider their options of starting a family. I am also concerned that one aspect of home ownership that seems to have been overlooked in the eligibility criteria for compensation is the ability of homeowners to release equity from their homes to fund personal business ventures.
Irrespective of where the final route goes following consultation, the first draft proposal is already causing blight upon my constituents, having a detrimental impact on my constituent’s lives, health and businesses. At no fault of their own, my constituents have already seen house sales fall through and for the reasons outlined above I believe it is only right that an exceptional hardship compensation scheme is introduced as a matter of urgency, even before the route is finalised and to include those effected along the first draft route.
Do you agree or disagree with the proposed criteria underpinning the Exceptional Hardship Scheme for Phase Two? What are your reasons? Please specify any alternative principles you would propose, including specific criteria for determining qualification for the scheme.
Criterion 2: It is vital that topography is taken into consideration in this respect as the visibility of the line from some houses I visited in my constituency will literally be straight in front of their windows due to the undulating topography of the landscape. This leads onto clause 2.15 of the Exceptional Hardship Scheme; this is of vital importance as the blight should not be defined on distance but on visual blight from any distance.
Clause 2.16 is very important as, under first draft proposals, areas of my constituency would be dealing with the main line track and branch lines being between 40 and 60 feet in the air, on viaducts, outside of their windows.
Announcing the route in January pulled the rug from under those of my constituents who were thinking of putting their homes on the market at some point this year; spring being a popular time for doing so. The plans for compensation need to be amended to include anyone who makes a decision to sell their home during this intervening period. Clause 2.22 needs to go further and acquire the estate agent’s valuation, adjusted to include market inflation the same as elsewhere in the community, in areas unaffected by the route. Clause 2.29 seems rather intrusive to a homeowners decision to sell their own home. It should not be questioned why a constituent had chosen to sell their home but accepted that in doing so they have lost value on their home because of the HS2 route. Neither does this clause indicate consideration for people who may have retirement plans in the next few years, or those planning to sell their home and downsize to release equity. 2016 is a considerable time away for those thinking about their options today.
Criterion 3: This needs to be expanded to include possible sales for people making a life change within the timeframe of before the initial first draft proposed route was published and when the final route is confirmed. The hardship scheme needs to apply to those who had made plans to move in the next year but who hadn’t actioned their intentions before the shock of seeing the proposed first draft route; this should include those moving away from the area for job reasons or people looking to move to a different part of the country, or aboard upon reaching retirement.
The scheme also needs to take consideration of those who would need to release equity form their home to ensure that their business does not fall into hardship. This will be a difficult assessment to quantify, but must be a feature in the scheme.
Do you agree or disagree with the proposed process for operating the Exceptional Hardship Scheme for Phase Two? What are your reasons? Please specify any alternative arrangements which you would suggest.
Further to clause 2.38, an animation of the effect that the route would have in terms of view would be helpful, for example, real footage from people’s vista with the route superimposed on to give a full understanding as to what he effect of the route will be. In addition, communication from HS2 Ltd to date has been incredibly poor. As of 24th April, I am still awaiting a reply to my personal letter to the CEO on 22nd February. Frustration builds when waiting for a reply so applicants should be kept informed of where their application lies in the process at all stages, rather than just waiting for a response for three months. These proposals affect the livelihoods of my constituents and they deserve to be treated with respect.
A guidance document is helpful, but during this unprecedented period there needs to be helpline, or a locally appointed practitioner in the locality to help people through their applications. As in all planning cases, site visits should be carried out before a decision is reached, with representatives from local estate agencies, elected members, community groups and most importantly, residents in attendance.