Government must step in to tighten compulsory purchase law due to the failure of HS2 Ltd to deal fairly with property owners affected by the high-speed rail route, according the CLA.
The CLA which represents 32,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses branded HS2 Ltd as ‘incompetent’ and said it ‘exists in a world of its own’, following cross-examination on how the rail group has behaved towards people affected by the rail line. Giving evidence to the HS2 Select Committee hearing on 29 November, the CLA set out exactly how HS2 Ltd has unfairly treated those due to lose their homes and livelihoods.
Barrister Richard Honey, acting on behalf of the CLA, argued that HS2 Ltd does not take its responsibility towards those affected by the line seriously by highlighting institutional incompetence in its inability to clarify what land is needed permanently and what is only required temporarily.
Chief Surveyor Andrew Shirley said: “Right from the start HS2 Ltd has been extremely poor at communicating with the people about to lose homes and businesses along the route. It has not been clear on the true extent of land take and how long it will be required for. Fees agreements with property owners to grant early access for surveys remain unpaid for months, correspondence and other agreements can remain outstanding for months or even years.
“Poor communication by HS2 Ltd has resulted in excessive problems for those people and businesses who have suffered for the past six years, resulting in even greater loss. It has not engaged properly with those who have made representations on the environmental statement and even more staggering, has been the suggestion that property owners who have not petitioned must be content with the process. Clearly, HS2 Ltd has no idea of the complexities and expense of petitioning. The list of bad behaviour goes on and on.”
During the evidence session, HS2 Ltd tried to argue that the issue of temporary versus permanent land take was a special clause for HS2 and does not exist in other infrastructure bills. The CLA barrister, Richard Honey, demonstrated that not only was the power being used inappropriately by HS2 Ltd but temporary land take is provided for in the Crossrail Act and many Transport and Works Act authorisations.
Mr Shirley added: “This really does show that HS2 Ltd clearly exists in a world of its own. The obvious failures in their attitude and approach mean it is now vital that the Government steps in and tightens legislation to prevent unnecessary permanent land acquisitions. A Duty of Care must be added to the HS2 Bill to ensure that property owners are treated fairly and to prevent any future occurrences of HS2 Ltd’s current bad behaviour.”