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79: Guidance Published for the Exceptional Hardship Scheme for HS2 Phase Two

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79: Guidance Published for the Exceptional Hardship Scheme for HS2 Phase Two
Leave your thoughts Jennifer Oldfield

By Jennifer Oldfield

The Government published guidance on the Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) for Phase Two of HS2 earlier this month. This is similar to the scheme that operated for Phase One of the HS2 route (which we reported in our blog entry 44), but for property owners who have an urgent need to sell and whose properties may have been affected by the announcement of the HS2 Phase Two high speed rail link between the West Midlands to Leeds, Manchester and the connections to the West and East Coast Main Lines. The Phase Two EHS has been in operation since July 2013.

The guidance confirms that the EHS will also cover those property owners affected by the Government’s perhaps premature announcement (in light of the report from the Airports Commission due later this year) that the HS2 network should link to Heathrow, and that the link should be built as part of HS2 Phase Two. The Government has recognised that their announcement may have affected property owners along the route of the proposed “Heathrow Spur”, despite the fact that the Heathrow Spur has not been included as part of the initial preferred route for HS2 Phase Two.

The EHS is designed to help owners who find themselves unable to sell their property at market value due to concerns about HS2’s potential impact. Applicants can require the Government to purchase their property at its full un-blighted value, provided they can show that:

  • they have a qualifying interest in the property (i.e. they are a resident owner-occupier of a private dwelling, an owner-occupier of commercial property with an annual rateable value of no more than £34,800, or an owner-occupier of an agricultural unit)
  • the property is so close (there is no fixed distance) to the proposed HS2 Phase Two route that it is “likely to be substantially adversely affected” by it
  • they have made all reasonable efforts to sell but have been unable to do so because of HS2
  • they had no knowledge of the HS2 proposals when they purchased the property
  • exceptional hardship has given rise to an urgent need to sell

Strong supporting evidence will need to be provided by applicants to demonstrate that exceptional hardship has given rise to an “urgent” need to sell, and that their property is likely to be substantially adversely affected. This is a high burden to prove, and the statistics are currently weighted against applications being accepted. As of 1 January 2015, 57 applications had been accepted for the Phase Two EHS, with 73 being rejected. As a comparator, under the Phase One EHS (which has been in operation since 2010) the statistics stand at only 156 accepted applications, with 359 being rejected as of 1 December 2014.

The scheme is expected to last until the end of 2016, when further statutory measures will come into force, presumably when the Phase Two route is safeguarded. Unsuccessful applicants to the EHS will need to wait until then to see if they qualify for such compensation, and should consider looking at the proposals introduced for Phase One when it was safeguarded.

22 January 2015

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