Bucks Councillor calls on Prime Minister to condemn HS2 compulsory purchase ‘scandal’

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A councillor in Buckinghamshire has asked Rishi Sunak to acknowledge the ‘scandal’ of how homes were bought to make way for High Speed Rail 2 (HS2).

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Ed Gemmell, leader of the Climate Party, claimed that the company responsible for delivering the new railway line had undervalued some of the properties.

In response to the claims, HS2 Ltd said that homeowners who were required to sell were compensated ‘100 per cent’.

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Gemmell, who is standing for election in High Wycombe, wrote: “You stood at the dispatch box recently lamenting the fraud and cover-up of the two scandals – the Post Office and contaminated blood.

Ed Gemmell has slammed HS2, photo from Charlie Smith Local Democracy Reporting ServiceEd Gemmell has slammed HS2, photo from Charlie Smith Local Democracy Reporting Service
Ed Gemmell has slammed HS2, photo from Charlie Smith Local Democracy Reporting Service

“It is appalling, disingenuous and totally unacceptable that you have not acknowledged the third big scandal of our age detrimentally affecting over 20,000 potential claimants.

“These are ordinary British people who have effectively had their land stolen from them by HS2 through compulsory purchase at potentially fraudulent low under valuations.”

The politician adds that in some cases, properties were ‘forcibly taken away from people’ at potentially less than half their market value.

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Campaigners have previously criticised the undervaluing of properties bought by HS2 Ltd in order to build the new railway.

Ed Gemmell is running in the upcoming General Election, photo from Charlie Smith Local Democracy ReporterEd Gemmell is running in the upcoming General Election, photo from Charlie Smith Local Democracy Reporter
Ed Gemmell is running in the upcoming General Election, photo from Charlie Smith Local Democracy Reporter

Those whose homes are in the path of the new line – which runs from London to the Midlands – can get compensation under different schemes. HS2 Ltd has spent at least £3.4bn on more than 1,800 properties according to figures from the company.

Many of the homes are in Buckinghamshire, where the HS2 line is being built past Chalfont St Giles in the south to Great Missenden and up past Aylesbury in the north of the county.

Gemmell, who is an independent Bucks unitary councillor and parish councillor, alleged that there had been ‘fraud and misrepresentation’ in the way in which the HS2 project was endorsed by Parliament.

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The politician claimed his Climate Party had been given ‘comprehensive evidence’ to show that the costs of HS2 were ‘dumbed down’ in order to get MPs to pass 2017 legislation for the project.

Without providing the evidence, he adds: “This ‘dumbing down’ of the project’s costs meant that the sovereignty of parliament was effectively negated by provision of cost estimates that were at best complete fantasy and at worst may constitute fraudulent strategic misrepresentation.”

Gemmell, whose centrist Climate Party is fielding around 20 candidates at the July 4 election, has also raged against the environmental impacts of HS2.

He said: “HS2 is currently the most damaging environmental project in the UK, destroying vast swathes of countryside particularly in my own county Buckinghamshire.”

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A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd said of the schemes: “They vary by what type of property it is and how far away from the railway.

“As an example, homeowners who were required to sell because their property was needed for construction, got 100 per cent of the unblighted value – i.e. a fair estimate of what the value would have been had HS2 not been built – plus an extra 10 per cent, plus stamp duty, legal fees, removal costs etc.”

The Department for Transport has been approached for comment.