- Residents suffered two years of ‘severe stress and worry’ due to HS2 plans
- Community in Staffordshire was forced to accept compensation and leave
- Ombudsman Julie Mellor described the incident as a ‘catalogue of errors’
The firm behind HS2 has been ordered to pay six families up to £4,000 each after treating them ‘with contempt’ over plans to demolish their homes to build the high speed line.
The close-knit community in Staffordshire had asked to be relocated, and HS2 Ltd gave them false hope they would be able to move their tiny hamlet in Flats Lane and Knox Grave, near Lichfield, to a nearby site, the Parliamentary Ombudsman found.
During two years of submitting proposals, the families received no feedback, causing them ‘severe stress and worry’.
They eventually had no choice but to accept compensation and leave. Ombudsman Julie Mellor said it was not clear that the families’ proposals were ever considered.
The firm behind HS2 has been ordered to pay six families up to £4,000 each after treating them ‘with contempt’ over plans to demolish their homes to build the high speed line (file image of proposed HS2 route)
‘This small tight-knit community now faces separation due to a catalogue of errors by HS2 Ltd,’ she said.
‘Despite HS2 Ltd encouraging those affected by the project to work with them to come up with solutions, these families were made to feel as though their proposal had simply disappeared into a black hole, leaving them with no option but to accept compensation for their homes and abandon any hope of them staying together as a community.’
Ombudsman chairman Julie Mellor said their ordeal ‘highlights the dire consequences of public sector organisations … not communicating effectively with people’.
A spokesman for the families, Jonathan Loescher, said they felt they had been treated with ‘contempt’ during their ‘exhausting and demoralising’ battle to stay together.
‘We loved where we lived and worked,’ said Mr Loescher.
‘We wanted to work with HS2 Ltd to try and explore the possibility of being able to continue to live within the immediate local area, save our businesses and give us the opportunity to maintain our existing lifestyles. Now most of the community has left the area.’
During two years of submitting proposals, the families received no feedback, causing them ‘severe stress and worry’ (file image of HS2 design)
The Ombudsman recommended that HS2 Ltd pay each of the families between £750 and £4,000, and carry out an independent review into its public engagement.
Chief executive Simon Kirby said: ‘HS2 Ltd…offers a full apology to the residents for distress caused. We will fully comply with the report’s recommendations and make the payments to the residents concerned.’
Demolition of the hamlet is due to begin in 2017 as the construction of the first phase of HS2, between London and the West Midlands, gets under way.