Following the General Election, and now that the successor #HS2 Select Committee has re-commenced petition hearings, it is an opportune moment to take stock and to consider some of the key points arising from the previous Select Committee’s First Special Report of the Session 2014/15.
Some of the key points to note from the Report are:
Whilst acknowledging last minute settlement discussions “at the door of the Committee Room” were to some extent inevitable, the Report firmly encourages HS2 Limited to be more timely in its engagement with Petitioners – particularly to progress preparation of Petition Response Documents and with negotiations;
The Report made clear that the merits of tunnels should be assessed on the basis of their own cost and potential benefit (not the percentage contribution to overall project costs). The Select Committee have requested that HS2 Limited make available a guide to tunnel costs to assist Petitioners arguing the case for more tunnelling going forward;
The Select Committee have directed HS2 Limited to reconsider the extent of temporary and permanent land take affecting a number of business and residential land owning Petitioners. The Report continues to encourage HS2 Limited to minimise the need for permanent land acquisitions where possible;
The Select Committee’s priority has been (and no doubt will continue to be) on home purchase, and in particular, the urgent necessity for the Need to Sell Scheme to function properly and efficiently;
The Report recommended the extension of the Need to Sell Scheme to those having a “justifiable reason” to move, less onerous than having to demonstrate “a compelling reason to sell”.
The Report notes that HS2 Limited should improve their approach to helping Applicants (only approximately 30% of Applications have been accepted to date) and HS2 have been directed to write to all those whose Applications under the Exceptional Hardship Scheme were rejected, inviting them to consider applying under the new Scheme;
So concerned were the Select Committee at the implementation of the Need to Sell Scheme that a progress report has been requested in time for the recommencement of the petitioning process (with the possibility of directing implementation of a Property Bond Scheme not being ruled out if improvements are not forthcoming);
Of the 1,918 Petitions lodged, the Report notes that a significant proportion of Petitioners chose to settle or ultimately not appear before the Select Committee.
However, as can be seen, there is still much work for the successor Select Committee to do, with a great many Petitions yet to be considered.