HS2 deluged by 11,000 complaints on postcards

Marion Dakers

Spare a thought for the post room at Golder Associates, the company hired by the Department for Transport to assess the environmental effects of High Speed 2.

The consultancy recently received some 7,500 postcards entitled “Don’t miss your chance to tell David Cameron the only AONB [area of outstanding natural beauty] on the route of HS2 needs a full tunnel”.

In total the firm had to sift through more than 11,000 postcards out of 21,833 responses to the London to Birmingham leg of the HS2 route.

Property blight has been a major issue for those lobbying against HS2. Figures released today on the environmental consultation showed that a shortage of tunnels through areas such as the Chilterns, to protect residents from noise and property blight, was by far the biggest cause for complaint.

87 responses to the consultation expressed support for the line.

Separately, the Department for Transport has today set out its plans to compensate homeowners living close to the route, though opposition campaigners have already said it does not go nearly far enough.

Homeowners living closest to the proposed High Speed 2 railway will be able to sell their houses to the government for up to 10 per cent above the unblighted market value.

And property owners up to 120 metres away from the line in rural areas might be able to get the unblighted asking price for their home up to a year after HS2 opens. Alternatively, the government is planning to offer up to £100,000 to homeowners who do not want to move.

The government is also replacing its “exceptional hardship scheme” with a “need to sell” programme, where residents with health problems or other reasons that require them to move away from HS2 will be given the full value of their homes.

Campaigners against HS2, however, say the new compensation scheme leaves nearly 240,000 homes within a kilometre of the first leg of the route nursing lifelong losses on their property values and only a tiny fraction are eligible for compensation.

“HS2AA has estimated that the net cost of loss of property value on Phase 1 and 2 was £12bn, while HS2 Ltd has to date been budgeting to spend a fraction of this – just £2.5bn – in compensating affected individuals and purchasing land for building the railway. Today's announcement adds less than £30m compensation to HS2's bill,” said Hilary Wharf of the HS2 Action Alliance.

HS2AA’s proposal for a property bond, which would offer protection from falling values until after the line starts running, was rejected by the Department for Transport as “untried, would not facilitate the smooth operation of a normal property market and would add to uncertainty rather than reduce it”.