Headlines: May 24th, 2010

Councillors in Birmingham want the Government to rethink the operation of a hardship scheme set up to compensate property owners who will be affected by the construction of a proposed High Speed Rail network linking the city with London.

Under proposals put forward by the previous Government the Department for Transport would limit payments to residential owners-occupiers, in spite of the fact that the chosen route would run through miles of industrial, commercial and public land.

Birmingham City Council wants that idea to be reviewed. In its formal response to consultations it is asking for the hardship payments to be made more widely available on all land seriously devalued by the plans. The council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Neville Summerfield, said: “While we fully support the need for a residential hardship scheme, we passionately believe that the scope of this fund must be extended to all property types.”

Under current proposals residential applicants would have to show the value of their property might be seriously affected by the preferred route or demonstrate that they have an urgent need to sell their property. They could then apply for their properties to be bought by the Secretary of State for Transport.

Councillor Summerfield said: “In the same way residential properties may be devalued or become unsellable due to their proximity to the proposed line, businesses face exactly the same concerns. In some cases the uncertainty and financial consequences this will cause may make the difference between long-term survival or closure and job losses.”

Although implementation of the plans may be as far as 15-20 years away, the council has already begun working with businesses close to the site of a proposed new terminus station, to explore how they can co-exist and prosper alongside the rail improvements.