New Clause 31 - Compensation: application

Part of High Speed Rail(London - West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 8 March 2016.

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Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 2:30, 8 March 2016

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The point here is that the scheme comprehensively addresses loss of land, compulsory acquisitions, and loss of, and adverse impacts upon, businesses. It has a sophisticated methodology of compensation and rights of appeal to deal with those values. However, there is a glaring omission concerning those who are affected and severely affected by the works but neither own land nor have an affected business.

Not only businesses and property owners are potentially adversely affected. Many tenants, be they in social housing or private rented accommodation, have the potential to be severely affected by the works. It is beyond doubt that individuals, especially those who live  close to the works, will suffer great disturbance, be that from the additional noise and heavy traffic, the vibration caused by piling or other construction activity and, importantly, the air pollution and the creation of dust in the atmosphere. That list is not meant to be exhaustive, and I am sure that hon. Members can think of innumerable ways in which individuals could be affected by the HS2 works.

There is provision for the payment of compensation under the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965, and the Bill makes additional, specific provision for compensation, principally in one of three ways. First, there is the express purchase scheme, under which owner-occupiers living closest to the line may be able to sell their home to the Government at its full, unblighted market value, plus 10%—up to £47,000—and reasonable moving expenses, including stamp duty. Then there is the voluntary purchase scheme, which enables owner-occupiers in rural areas who live outside the safeguarding area and up to 120 metres from the line to sell their home to the Government for its full unblighted value. They will be able to do that at any time up until a year after the line opens.

Finally, there is the need-to-sell scheme, under which owner-occupiers who have a compelling reason to sell their house but are unable to do so because of HS2 can sell to the Government for the full unblighted value. Applicants will not need to demonstrate that they would suffer hardship if they could not sell, but they will need to show that they have a compelling need such as job relocation or ill health. Once available, that scheme will replace the exceptional hardship scheme. In addition, the Government will immediately introduce a “rent back” option, whereby owner-occupiers who have sold their property to the Government but wish to continue living in it may be able to rent it back, subject to suitability checks.

I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that the Government intend to promote two further proposals for cash payments for affected owner-occupiers, the first of these being a cash payment of between £30,000 and £100,000 for owner-occupiers living outside the safeguarding area and up to 120 metres from the line in rural areas who do not want to sell their home and move. That payment would be an alternative to the voluntary purchase offer.

There will be a homeowner payment for owner-occupiers who live within 120 metres and 300 metres from the route in rural areas. The Government’s initial view is that payments could be between £7,500 and £22,500, depending on a property’s proximity to the route. There is nothing for a tenant in Euston, for example, who cannot move for one reason or another and is simply wedded to their community and cannot tolerate the thought of leaving. If they did, they would not have anywhere else to go. Nevertheless, they may be subjected to all manner of disturbance for many years.

We all recognise the great potential for that amount of disturbance and upset to cause significant physical and mental ill health. The “need to sell” scheme addresses the issue of ill health as an important issue when establishing a compelling need to sell. It is simply unfair that those individuals who suffer health consequences as a result of the works have no ability under the Bill to seek compensation.

Some property owners will not live in the communities affected but, because the value of their asset within the affected area is reduced, they will quite understandably receive compensation, yet an individual, perhaps born in the community and having lived there for decades, who is personally, directly and severely affected by the disturbance of the works, has no ability to receive compensation under the scheme. The new clause does not seek to prescribe what constitutes being severely affected, but leaves that to the Secretary of State to define. One would hope that, in his consultations on achieving such a definition, he would avail himself of expert medical opinion and come to a definition that would fairly address the obvious omission.

There is a very important principle at stake. It is clearly absolutely right that we value, respect and recognise individuals’ and companies’ property rights, and the adverse impact on the value of their property assets. Equally, it is important to value people and the damage caused to them by the loss of peaceable enjoyment of their homes, their peace of mind and physical health when such major works are undertaken, and accordingly any deficit, be it visited on a property owner or tenant, ought to be properly recognised. I therefore commend the new clause to the Committee.