DISTRAUGHT pensioners feared they would be forced out of their Cubbington home of more than 50 years after receiving a blanket compulsory purchase letter from HS2.
The husband and wife, who are both in their 80s, received a letter in June addressed simply to ‘The Owner’ which they thought was informing them HS2 Ltd was serving a compulsory purchase order on the Rugby Road house they have lived in since 1963.
Homes and land within 60 metres of the controversial 190 kilometre high speed line between London and Birmingham – 54km of which cuts through Warwickshire – are subject to compulsory purchase rules meaning ownership gets transferred to the government.
But the couple’s son, whose father also suffers from dementia, admitted he was as confused by the letter as his elderly parents. He contacted the HS2 helpdesk and was told a check would be made and he would get a call back – which he said he never received.
And then just over a month later, a second letter running to a number of pages arrived – again addressed only to ‘The Owner’ – which referred to the earlier letter in June and their land/property being needed for the project.
The opening page stated: “I can understand this may be a difficult and worrying time for you, and I want you to know that we’ll do what we can to help.”
It went on to outline compensation options, where they could get advice, and that if the land/property was not vacant by November 6 an enforcement officer would take possession.
The fifth page of the letter then stated the actual land referred to – “All interests in the 15,193.78 square metres, or thereabouts, of public road and verge (Rugby Road, B4453).”
When the Observer contacted HS2 it emerged the letters referred to the grass verge between the road and the couple’s property.
HS2 said the legal ownership of the land was unregistered so both Warwickshire County Council and householders had been been sent notices advising it was needed by the firm.
But the couple’s son was angry and said the letters had caused the family a great deal of stress.
He told the Observer: “The letter was totally unsuitable and put them in a state of alarm. It doesn’t even have their names on.
“The whole thing has been very stressful. It’s threatening and alarming.
“My dad especially gets very upset about things. Why can’t they send a proper letter to explain rather than a standard letter which causes a lot of stress? The way they’re doing it there’s just no care for people.”
A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd declined to comment on the confusion the letter had caused but said the company would contact the family directly to discuss their concerns.
Stop HS2 campaigner Joe Rukin was stinging in his criticism of the company.
He told the Observer: “HS2 has been ridiculously impersonal in rushing to get letters out like there’s no tomorrow, even though they may not need the land, so they can make it impossible to cancel the process.
“They are incapable of dignity and respect. The fact that these people are human beings is irrelevant. Numbers on a balance sheet or markings on the map is the only consideration given to these people.”