Claire Brook, Head of the Planning and Infrastructure at Bond Dickinson
The Department for Transport has endorsed Sir David Higgins’ recommendation for the alternative Phase 2b route for new high-speed rail services with a loop through to Sheffield City Centre. The 2013 proposal to build a station at Meadowhall has been dropped.
This means the main HS2 route will follow the more easterly alignment closer to the M18, which is considered to have less impact overall on built development and the environment.
Whilst the estimated cost saving of £1billion was undoubtedly a key factor in this decision, the alternative route also delivers the prospect of better integration with the existing and proposed wider transport network, particularly the Northern Powerhouse Rail’s aspirations for a Sheffield to Leeds journey time of 30 minutes.
The route is still not fixed and a Route Refinement Consultation for Phase 2b has also been launched to seek responses from stakeholders affected by the new proposals. The consultation sets out seven route refinements and will run until March 9, 2017, after which the government will look to make its final decision on the proposed route.
As such, there will continue to be a period of uncertainty for landowners; although without wishing to pre-empt the outcome of the consultation, it appears likely that the current proposals will be adopted later in 2017.
Safeguarding directions protect the route of HS2 from conflicting development. Safeguarding has already taken place in respect of the route between the Midlands and Crewe (Phase 2a) and directions have now been issued in respect of Phase 2b.
The purpose of safeguarding is not to prevent development along the route of HS2, but to ensure that development does not conflict with the plans for the railway. For homeowners along the route, safeguarding triggers statutory blight provisions. Once a safeguarding direction is made it gives many of those who own property in the safeguarded area the right to serve a Blight Notice and request that the Government purchases their property under the terms of the Compensation Code.
The Government is consulting on schemes it proposes to introduce for Phase 2b. The following are available now on an interim basis:
*Express purchase for owner occupiers in safeguarded areas. This simplifies how eligible owner occupiers can claim compensation under the statutory blight regime.
*Need to sell – this is a purchase scheme for people who have a compelling reason to sell their property but can’t do so, other than at a significantly reduced price, because of HS2.
Other schemes may be available in due course, depending on the location of property and compliance with various qualification criteria such as period of ownership and rateable value. The consultation is also seeking views on the following schemes:
*Rural support zone, which offers payment and purchase schemes for people who live up to 120m from the line in areas where there is no safeguarding.
*Homeowner payment scheme, which provides cash payments for people who own and live in properties in the homeowner payment zone (generally 120m-300m from the line in rural areas) where the line is not in a tunnel. This is expected to be launched when the final HS2 route is approved by Parliament.
A homeowner may also be able to sell their property under one of the schemes but rent it back on a short term basis.
Further information on property schemes can be found at www.gov.uk/hs2.