What does the HS2 decision mean for conveyancers?

You won’t have failed to notice the approval to proceed with the HS2 link.  Whilst it might take over a decade to complete many are already talking about property blight and risk of conveyancer negligence.
The approval by the Government of the High Speed 2 (HS2) linking London to Birmingham and later Manchester and Leeds is clearly controversial and tempers amongst residents are already high despite the fact it’s not likely to be completed for many years.
When it is completed it will power 14 trains an hour in each direction along its track each carrying up to 1,100 passengers at speeds of up to 225 mph.  This is estimated to require the demolishion of £90M worth of property, blight 4700 homes with noise pollution and wipe £97M off property values.
Richard Hinton of Searchflow has commented on HS2 saying “Homebuyers face uncertainty for the next decade and a half.  Only small sections of the route will utilise existing railway lines.  This is clearly a huge project that will lead to disruption on a corresponding scale.  The majority of the route will require new lines and associated works such as tunnels, viaducts, and bridges.  HS2’s ‘rail corridor’ could be 200 feet wide in places[i].  It will cost £32 billion to construct.  Hundreds of properties will need to be demolished and thousands will be blighted by their proximity to it during the construction process and from disturbance when the line is built — it’s certainly enough to devalue your home significantly.
“Of the 22 Local Authorities that look as if they might be affected, only 1 told us they will offer more than the minimum information they are required to provide.  Potential homebuyers could easily get trapped into buying a property that they don’t know will suffer at the hands of HS2.”
Searchflow go on to explain that the existing Local Authority search “Con29” “only has to identify whether homes are within 200 metres of HS2, placing conveyancers at risk of fury from buyers unwittingly purchasing blighted homes.
But if buyers are to avoid getting a nasty shock when work begins, they will need to know if their property is in the vicinity of HS2 – even if it isn’t within the 200-metre radius.  The government has already admitted that the construction and operation of HS2 will cause significant disruption from noise, dust and vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, and artificial lighting.”
Searches UK has set out the local authorities that are impacted by the searches saying that conveyancers should be wary when acting on transactions in Aylesbury Vale, Birmingham City Council, Camden Council, Cherwell District Council, Chiltern District Council, Islington Council, Lichfield District Council, London Borough of Brent, London Borough of Ealing, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, London Borough of Harrow, London Borough of Hillingdon, North Warwickshire Borough Council, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Solihul Metropolitan Borough Council, South Buckinghamshire District Council, South Northamptonshire District Council, Stratford upon Avon District Council,Tamworth Borough Council,Warwick District Council,Westminster City Council, and Wycombe District Council.
GroundSure point out that their HS2 report, which is suitable for residential and commercial properties, answers three essential questions:
1.            What is the nearest distance between the property and the rail link within a 2000m radius (which they claim is double the distance offered by other similar searches)?
2.            What is maximum speed of the train at the nearest point (speed directly impacts noise pollution)?
3.            What is the distance to the nearest overland and below ground line location?
However you decide to deal with the issues that arise from HS2 it is likely that litigation and claims of negligence are likely to flow if a conveyancer hasn’t considered his or her clients position appropriately.
Jonathan Smither the Chair of the Land Law and  Conveyancing Committee of the Law Society commented saying “It will be important for conveyancers to be aware of this development, as with the previous line HS1 and to advise their clients accordingly.
As to searches conveyancers will need to be aware of the information available which may include commercial products but should also consider the information which can be obtained directly from the HS2 company free of charge.”  He pointed out that there is information available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/publications/hs2-proposed-route-maps and other information on the Department for Transport website.
We did contact a number of conveyancing firms in the Oxfordshire and Banbury area but none were prepared to comment.
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