A review of HS2’s land and property acquisition has missed some fundamental points, says the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV).
The review, initiated by the Department for Transport in the summer, tried to address a wide range of concerns raised by several different parties involved with HS2, explains CAAV policy adviser Kate Russell (pictured).
“Perhaps inevitably, the result is a piecemeal series of recommendations. While some are very welcome – like better communication and more flexibility – we are disappointed that some of the really important factors do not appear to be addressed.”
Recommendations included calls for a better and more courteous communication with affected parties, a more flexible approach to settling compensation claims, and more certainty on when land might be taken.
The CAAV has previously argued that a more flexible approach needed to be taken to compensation, especially as no two farms, businesses or properties affected by the scheme are identical.
“We look forward to seeing how this could be implemented, because it’s likely to require a change in mindset within HS2,” says Ms Russell. “The commitment to improve IT and administration is also very welcome.
“A good system of information management should free up case managers to spend more time on dealing with claimants. However, it’s shocking that we are nine years into this project and the IT still isn’t up to scratch.”
The report acknowledges
that HS2’s current dispute resolution offer isn’t working because claimants don’t trust it. They feel it lacks independence because it requires them to choose who will resolve a dispute from HS2’s own panel.
Ms Russell says: “Dispute resolution is a really important area and it would be quite simple for HS2 to ask an independent body, such as the CAAV, to appoint a neutral third person to deal with the matter.”
The second issue is much broader, she says. “We want to see HS2 balance its statutory powers with a duty of care to those
affected by it and though the review states there will be a renewed focus on placing people at the heart of the scheme, there’s very little detail on how this will be achieved.”