UK: HS2 And Landowners

Last Updated: 24 April 2013
Article by Ian McCulloch and Christopher Findley

The proposed new'High Speed 2' railway from London to Birmingham (Phase 1) and from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds (Phase 2) will have a huge impact on land holdings in its path and on adjoining areas.

Some impacts will be temporary such as those caused by its construction. Some will be permanent - not least the existence of the railway, once constructed, and the compulsory acquisition of land needed for it. Some impacts will largely be confined to the specific line of the route; many will be wider. All kinds of land will be adversely affected - commercial, residential, agricultural and recreational. Owners and occupiers affected will range from local authorities, businesses and charities to families and individuals such as farmers and home owners.

Will it happen? Can it be stopped?

HS2 must be authorised and funded. The form of authorisation is to be legislation in Parliament. The three main political parties in England, the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats support the project. It therefore seems probable that it will be authorised, although not necessarily without it being altered during the process. Although considerable public funds are being devoted to developing HS2, it will require a sustained commitment from successive governments to provide funds for it to be implemented. The government has acknowledged that a scheme of this magnitude will inevitably require a substantial contribution from the taxpayer. If funds are provided for Phase 1, it would seem likely that funds will also be found for Phase 2.

Can it be changed?

Although the principle of HS2 enjoys broad political consensus, Parliament can change the scheme. Parliament can also impose conditions on how the government and its wholly owned subsidiary company, HS2 Limited, will carry it out.

Do I need to do anything?

Whether you should do anything will depend upon how serious the impact is on your property or interests and an evaluation of your prospects of achieving a worthwhile change. This might be an alteration to the works or to the terms upon which they may be carried out or of the land required for them.

If you are directly affected, you will almost certainly be entitled to receive compensation. Whether it is worth taking action should therefore also depend upon whether you consider the compensation rules to be adequate in your circumstances.

How might I be affected?

There are many ways in which you may be affected, depending on your particular circumstances.

Examples of situations which could arise where we have assisted cases on other schemes include:

  • excessive amount of land being taken;
  • part only of your land being taken and the effect of this on the remainder;
  • physical damage to your property, if not taken;
  • the impact of temporary possession of some of your land during construction;
  • getting land back if it is not all needed;
  • blight;
  • crystallisation of negative equity;
  • harm to your business;
  • construction traffic and other adverse impacts on the amenity of your property;
  • problems of relocating;
  • tax consequences of compulsory purchase;
  • inadequate compensation in certain circumstances.

A feature of the compensation rules is that they are generic in nature so that they can apply to different circumstances but this does not mean that they work satisfactorily or fairly in all situations. Compulsory purchase can have unforeseen and unintended consequences.

What is the process?

Three Bills in Parliament are expected - a 'paving Bill' to authorise long term government expenditure on the project, a Bill to authorise the Phase 1 works and the compulsory acquisition of land for them; and a similar Bill for Phase 2.

The paving Bill is expected to be introduced in May or June 2013. The Phase 1 Bill is expected in December 2013 and the Phase 2 Bill about two years later.

All three Bills offer opportunities for lobbying the government and MPs on relevant generic issues. The Bills for Phases 1 and 2 will also afford affected landowners the opportunity formally to object to the proposals and to have their case heard by a Parliamentary Committee.

There will be other important features of the overall process including public consultation on the scheme and an assessment of its environmental impacts.

How do I get involved?

Some consultation on HS2 has already occurred but there will be more. As a result of a judicial review of the consultation that has already taken place, there will have to be further consultation on aspects of compensation.

During 2013, there will also be consultation on the environmental assessment of Phase 1. Consultation on Phase 2 is expected later this year.

We always recommend participating in any public consultation, even if you feel it may be on a foregone conclusion. No Promoter can be expected to understand all the impacts of their scheme. They need to be told and there may be something they can do to ameliorate your position.

Various representative bodies and lobby groups are seeking generic changes, e.g. to the compensation rules. They need to be supported if they are to be effective. This may be all you want or feel you can afford to do. You can also lobby your MP.

If you need to do more than that, you can have your circumstances evaluated professionally by your usual or another land agent, lawyer or tax adviser, with a view to submitting an objection and presenting your case to Parliament, if you have a case worth arguing.

Whatever representative organisations, businesses and individuals achieve in protecting their interests during the Phase 1 Bill is likely to set a template for how comparable situations will be dealt with when it comes to Phase 2.

What can I hope to achieve?

The extent to which the Promoters will be willing to negotiate either general changes or bespoke solutions to particular cases remains to be seen. It is usual, however, for Promoters to have meetings with objectors to hear about their concerns and consider how they might be resolved.

Early engagement is usually more productive and less costly than leaving it late. This can lead to the Promoters entering into binding agreements with objectors or modifying their policy on how they will treat situations.

The sort of solutions that can be negotiated include:

  • reduced land take;
  • early buy-out;
  • sale and rent back of affected property;
  • adjustments to works and environmental mitigation;
  • changes to position or scale of work sites;
  • shorter temporary possession;
  • reduced impact of construction traffic;
  • monitoring of physical effects on properties;
  • repair of physical damage rather than compensation;
  • protection of your property when works are carried out close to it.

When will it happen?

The construction of Phase 1 is unlikely to start before 2017. The Bill for Phase 1 could take about two years to be enacted. There may then be a period of detailed design and the contractors will have to be commissioned. The aim is for HS2 trains to be running between London and Birmingham in 2026.

When the construction of Phase 2 can start will depend upon when the Bill for that phase is passed. That Bill is not expected to be introduced until 2015. It is also likely to take about two years to be enacted.

Am I locked in? Can I get out?

The possibility of HS2 happening followed by the government's announcements of their intention to proceed with it and of the route for it may well mean that you are now suffering from the prospect of it, even though this does not count in law as blight. It may be affecting your ability to sell or let your property. The uncertainty may be preventing you from planning for the future in the way you would otherwise be able to do.

HS2 Limited has already purchased by agreement a number of properties on the route. They may be willing to purchase yours. They may be able to give you some assurances. Otherwise, you could be in a predicament for a long time. You may want to take advice on your options.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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