A small, tight-knit community was denied the chance to stay together due to a catalogue of errors by HS2 Ltd, an investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has found.
A group of six families, from Staffordshire, whose homes were set to be destroyed because they were on the HS2 route, fell victim of a number of failings by HS2 Ltd over two years, placing them under severe stress and worry, hugely impacting their home lives, jobs, careers and health.
The families, who live in a hamlet between Weeford and Packington, near Lichfield, Staffordshire, which is on Phase One of the HS2 route which runs from London to the West Midlands, were given the option of reimbursement for their homes or to come up with proposals which could enable them to stay together and relocate as a community.
They spent considerable time and effort drawing up proposals, but over the course of two years HS2 Ltd repeatedly failed to communicate their views on the proposals within agreed deadlines, cancelled meetings at the last minute and postponed other meetings, giving the families false hope that their plans would be considered, when in fact no feedback was ever given and it is not clear if the proposals were fully considered at all.
The investigation found that HS2 Ltd’s repeated delay in commenting on the families’ relocation proposal made an already stressful situation worse. By failing to communicate with them effectively, HS2 Ltd unnecessarily prolonged the uncertainty, stress and worry they were experiencing.
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said:
This small tight-knit community now faces separation due to a catalogue of errors by HS2 Ltd.
'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.
'The ordeal these families have endured highlights the dire consequences of public sector organisations getting it wrong and not communicating effectively with people.'
Some of the families have already sold their homes and others are in the process of selling them, before demolition starts in the hamlet when the construction of Phase One of HS2 gets underway, which is currently planned to begin in 2017.
A spokesperson for the Flats Lane and Knox Grave Lane Residents Group, Jonathan Loescher, said:
As a community we are neither for or against HS2 as a project. We attempted to engage with HS2 Ltd in a positive and constructive way but for years we were treated with contempt, delays and maladministration, as today’s report shows.
'We loved where we lived and worked. 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.
'Being subject to this ordeal for two years was exhausting, demoralising and made us lose all faith with the ability of HS2 Ltd to deal with us fairly.
'We would like to thank the staff of the PHSO for their thorough investigation and reporting of the issues we have faced. We would also like to thank our MP Christopher Pincher for his support throughout our ordeal.'
Notes to editors
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman - which investigates unresolved complaints about UK government departments and other public bodies - investigated complaints from the families about HS2 Ltd’s communication and engagement with them, including the way in which HS2 Ltd handled their complaints.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman recommended that HS2 Ltd pay each of the six families between £750 and £4,000 in recognition of the failings identified in the investigation.
It has also recommended that HS2 Ltd conducts and publishes the results of an independent review into its engagement, communication and complaint handling, within six months and publish the outcome of the implementation of the recommendations in that review.