The Government believe that high-speed rail has the potential to bring significant and long-lasting benefits for Britain’s economy and society. But we also recognise that there can be unavoidable consequences for those who live closest to any route put forward for such a network, particularly when they urgently need to sell their property. It is for this reason that the Government are of the view that an exceptional hardship scheme is absolutely necessary to help those who are most directly and immediately affected.
Details of how such an exceptional hardship scheme might operate were published for consultation on 11 March. In order to limit the delay for those in most urgent need of financial assistance, this consultation was due to run for 10 weeks, ending on 20 May. However, having received representations which argued that 10 weeks is not sufficient to allow all those with an interest to have the fullest possible opportunity to comment on these proposals, I announced last week that the deadline for that consultation would be extended by four weeks to 17 June.
In taking this decision, I have been aware of its implications for those in the most urgent need. Therefore, without prejudice to the outcome of the consultation, I have asked my officials to put shadow arrangements in place so that, should a decision be taken to proceed with the scheme, applications can begin to be considered immediately. By bringing forward the time scale for applications in this way, I hope to minimise uncertainty for those affected and ensure that payments can be made as quickly as possible wherever appropriate.
Of course, anyone whose application is considered under such shadow arrangements will also have a right of appeal once the formal scheme is up and running.
Furthermore, once a route is chosen and safeguarded by the Government, eligible property owners will have access to statutory blight compensation.