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Government to buy 'blighted' HS2 homes

image copyrightPA
image captionThe HS2 line is intended to link London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds

Homeowners living near the route of the HS2 high-speed rail link will now be able to ask the government to buy their property.

It follows the transport secretary's announcement that the route for the first phase of the £42.6bn project has been protected from future development.

Homeowners will get the "unblighted" market value of their property, plus 10% (up to £47,000) and moving costs.

But campaigners said the money would help only a "tiny fraction" of people.

The new high-speed railway line is intended to link London to Birmingham by 2026, with branches to Manchester and Leeds, via Sheffield, planned by 2032.

As part of the first phase of constructing the line from London to Birmingham, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced the "safeguarding" of the route.

'Future prosperity'

This means local authorities will now have to consult with the company overseeing construction, HS2 Ltd, about any development within the safeguarded area.

Mr McLoughlin said: "Safeguarding is an important milestone for homeowners and for planning purposes.

"It shows we are determined to deliver this once-in-a generation opportunity to drive growth, generate jobs, and secure our country's future prosperity.

"The purpose of safeguarding is not to prevent development along the route of HS2, but to ensure that any development that does take place is consistent with our plans for the railway."

Safeguarding is also the trigger for the government to start statutory blight procedures - a process whereby homeowners living within the safeguarded area, typically a corridor 120m wide, can apply to the government to buy their property.

Prior to this the only mechanism through which the government was buying properties on or near the HS2 route was through the Exceptional Hardship Scheme - for those who could demonstrate that they have an urgent need to sell.

Mr McLoughlin said: "I understand the distress of those who live along the line of route and can assure people that we will process claims to purchase their property swiftly so that those who qualify can move as quickly as possible.

"In the meantime we will also continue purchasing properties of those in exceptional hardship ahead of consulting on a comprehensive package of long-term discretionary compensation measures."

'Financial recklessness'

The government has already committed to introducing a full compensation scheme that is more generous than the law requires.

However, it is currently re-consulting on the package after the High Court upheld concerns from anti-HS2 campaigners about how a previous consultation was carried out.

Hilary Wharf, director of the HS2 Action Alliance, which opposes the rail link, said the proposals to compensate blighted properties would only affect around 1,000 of the 172,000 properties which are within 1km of the route.

She said: "Blight started the day HS2 was announced in March 2010.

"If the government says HS2 is going to be such a big economic success, then they can afford proper compensation for all those blighted by the HS2 line.

"Most people have been sitting there being hugely blighted for three years now. This will affect only a tiny, tiny fraction of those who have been suffering."

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