Clause 48 of the HS2 Phase One Hybrid Bill would confer on the secretary of state power to acquire land by compulsory purchase if he or she considers "that the construction or operation of Phase One of High Speed 2 gives rise to the opportunity for regeneration or development of any land".
But a report published yesterday by the House of Lords Select Committee for HS2, which heard representations from petitioners across 101 public meetings on 64 sitting days, said that the power is "indeed very wide" and should be deleted from the bill.
"Although the heading to the clause refers to regeneration or relocation, the language of subsection (1) covers not only ‘regeneration’ but also ‘development’, a much more general term," the report said.
The report said that the secretary of state has indicated that the power would be regarded as one to be used only as a last resort, if commercial negotiations failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
"But in our opinion it is not sound law-making to create wide powers permitting the expropriation of private property on the strength of ministerial statements, not embodied in statute, that the powers would be used only as a last resort," the report added.
The report also found that the government’s non-statutory scheme to compensate homeowners affected by the rail scheme "does not at present strike a fair balance between town and country residents, mainly because it is based on the incorrect assumption that it is inconvenience and disruption during the operational phase that is the sole or main grievance for those who live close to the line of the route".
The report said that the "unprecedented scale, both in intensity and in duration, of the construction works to be authorised by the bill" meant that this assumption was flawed.
The report recommends that households in Camden and other urban areas, "which are most severely threatened by construction noise, should be treated in the same way as if they were within 120 metres of the line of route in an area where the Rural Support Zone (RSZ) applies".
The recommendation means that affected households in urban areas, which would have only received noise insulation, would instead be eligible to have the same rights has households in rural areas.
These include the voluntary purchase scheme, which entitles householders to ask for their property to be purchased at full, unblighted market value at a time of their choosing, and the alternative cash option, capped at £100,000.
The committee’s report calculates that the cost of the additional compensation for the additional 1,200 owner-occupiers and 350 tenants that would be affected by the proposal would be between £231.5 million and £351.5 million.
"These are substantial amounts but the extended compensation would be bringing much needed relief to over 1,500 householders and their families," the report said.
Sarah Hayward, leader of Camden Council, said: "Since HS2 was first proposed, we’ve stood with residents and businesses to highlight the unprecedented disruption its construction will have in Camden and the unfair discrepancy between rural and urban compensation. We’ve won the moral battle and the ball is now in HS2 Ltd’s court to pay up to residents who will endure years of noise, dust and disturbance."
The Department for Transport has been asked for a statement.
The report is available here.