Last week saw the release of the long-awaited HS2 Land and Property Review, a comprehensive set of reforms to ways in which both HS2 Ltd and their contractors operate.
The review, led by the Rt. Hon Andrew Stephenson MP, Minister of State for HS2, has identified systemic problems with the conduct, strategy and operation of HS2 Ltd, all of which have severely impacted on the public’s trust in the project.
The report’s recommendations have been divided into seven categories: clear communications; flexible compensation policies; a ‘people-centred’ land and property strategy; efficient case management; effective use of Alternative Dispute Resolution; availability of compulsory purchase options; and periodic reviews overseen by DfT.
The report follows a string of developments across the Buckingham constituency which have left a lasting impact on the communities affected by the project. These include the possession of Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve, the damaging levels of heavy goods traffic through Quainton village, and the closure of a key roadway between Aylesbury and Haddenham without warning.
The most notable changes include an automated and user-friendly tracker for keeping property owners updated on their cases; a new standard set for guidance relating to land and property compensation schemes to ensure greater clarity and comprehension; and new options to accelerate property valuation agreements and disturbance payments, as well as earlier crop loss payments for farmers.
Some of the report’s recommendations are less clear, however. These include which methods will be employed to ensure greater transparency on the most contentious factors which prevent cases from being resolved efficiently; how to incentivise contractors and suppliers to deliver in accordance with revised HS2 Ltd customer service standards; and how to update compulsory purchase legislation and guidance to better reflect current law and practice. It will be essential to clarify these points to ensure their efficacy.
Greg said: “I welcome this week’s release of the HS2 Land and Property Review from the Department for Transport. Among its recommendations are carefully considered and much needed reforms to HS2 Ltd’s conduct and public interface, reforms which I hope will lead to a more considerate and respectful approach from HS2 Ltd and their contractors both to my constituents and all those whose property and businesses have been impacted along the line of route.
“I’m pleased to see that the HS2 Minister and Department for Transport have picked up on the rampant and reckless behaviour of HS2 Ltd and their contractors. I have constituents contact me every day with their own stories of how damaging HS2 has been to their livelihoods and I have been working tirelessly lobbying ministers to ensure that their voices are heard.
“The proof of the pudding is always in the eating, however. So I will be closely monitoring it’s implementation over the coming months, requesting clarity where necessary and feeding back to the DfT where the reforms have been successful as well as where more work is needed.
“I really wish we could stop this monster of a project, but for the time being, this report is a step in the right direction in terms of holding HS2 Ltd better to account.”