HS2 review misses key points, agricultural valuers say

The HS2 review set out to ease concerns raised by different parties involved with HS2
The HS2 review set out to ease concerns raised by different parties involved with HS2

A review of HS2’s land and property acquisition has missed some fundamental points, according to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV).

The review, initiated by the Department for Transport in summer, tried to address a wide range of concerns raised by several different parties involved with HS2.

It set out 36 recommendations under four main themes, such as better communication with affected parties and a more flexible approach to settling compensation claims.

The review also recommended giving those affected more certainty on when land will be taken and how it might be returned if not needed, and improved information management and administration.

The CAAV responded to the findings by saying it was 'disappointed' as some important factors did not appear to be addressed.

The body had previously argued that a more flexible approach was needed to be taken to compensation, as 'no two farms, businesses or properties affected by the scheme were identical'.

Kate Russell, policy adviser to CAAV said: “We look forward to seeing how this could be implemented, because it’s likely to require a change in mindset within HS2.

“The commitment to improve IT and administration is 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.”

Despite highlighting some important areas for improvement, the review missed a number of key points, Ms Russell added.

The report acknowledged that HS2’s current dispute resolution offer was not working because claimants did not trust it, as they felt it lacked independence because they had to choose who would resolve a dispute from HS2’s own panel.

She said: “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 was much broader, Ms Russell said: “We want to see HS2 balance its statutory powers with a duty of care to those affected by it.

"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.”

Ms Russell explained that improving access to professional advice was a further area the report had failed to outline.

"We have members involved on both sides; some acting for HS2 and others acting for land, property and business owners,” she added.

“We want HS2 to give more autonomy to its expert agricultural valuers – the people on the ground who really understand farming and rural business – so that claims can be dealt with more quickly and efficiently.”