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New deal on HS2 compensation

More residents affected by the £50 billion HS2 high-speed rail project are to get Government compensation and assistance.

But opponents of the scheme say the new package does not go anything like far enough.

The new deal involves owner-occupiers of homes and small businesses between generally 60 metres and up to 120 metres from the line from London to Birmingham which forms the first phase of the scheme.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin described the package as "comprehensive".

But the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) said that "barely 3,000 homeowners" would benefit, yet 172,000 households were within 1,000 metres of the phase one line, and 43,000 within 500 metres.

Mr McLoughlin announced today that those between 60 metres and 120 metres can submit an application to HS2 Ltd to purchase their property at the full, unblighted value under the voluntary purchase scheme. This is the value of the property as if there were no plans for HS2.

As an alternative to the voluntary purchase scheme, these eligible property owners will also have the option to accept a cash offer of 10% of that same value and stay in their homes and businesses. This will support people who want to remain in their community.

Those beyond the 120-metre boundary but within 300 metres of the line in rural areas will, following Royal Assent of the Phase One HS2 Hybrid Bill, be able to apply for a homeowner payment ranging from £7,500 to £22,500, which will enable them to share early in the benefits of the railway.

Eligible owner-occupiers living any distance from the line of route can now apply to the need to sell (NTS) scheme, which also pays the un-blighted value to people with a compelling reason to sell their property, but who have been unable to do so - other than at a substantially reduced price - due to HS2.

The criteria for the NTS scheme is more relaxed than the exceptional hardship scheme (EHS) it replaces and, unlike the EHS, will consider applications from those who may not need to move immediately.

Today also sees HS2 Ltd launch a residents' charter to help ensure that residents are treated in a fair, clear, competent and reasonable manner with the charter being overseen by a Residents' Commissioner.

The Government said the schemes go well beyond legal requirements and offer an effective means of helping those along the phase one route.

Today's package supplements the express purchase scheme which has been available to those within the safeguarded zone (generally within 60 metres from the proposed line) since April 2014.

Mr McLoughlin said: "This comprehensive package of compensation and assistance is looking after those people who live along the HS2 route while balancing our responsibilities to the taxpayer.

"People at the heart of this vital new railway will also benefit from HS2 Ltd's new residents' charter and the appointment of the Residents' Commissioner, who will ensure that the commitments in the charter are upheld.

"Building HS2 will create extra space on our rail network, create jobs and support business and is a vital part of the Government's long-term economic plan."

HS2AA director Hilary Wharf said: "It is deeply unfair that so many ordinary people, who through no fault of their own happen to live near to the planned HS2 line, continue to be left to bear these losses with no help from the Government.

"People were promised `full and fair' compensation and this promise has been broken time and time again."

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