HS2 South Yorkshire: ‘Not all residents are numpties’

Written by Lauren Kelly

In the aftermath of the government going back on their promises to level up the north and pulling HS2 from South Yorkshire, home owners across the region have voiced their anger over how their lives have been left in limbo.

For five years residents of an estate in Mexborough, near Doncaster, were told they couldn’t sell their homes or make any renovations as they were under a compulsory safeguarding scheme.

Even now, after the high speed rail network has been scrapped for the area, those living on the Shimmer estate are still unable to make any changes to their properties.

Linsey Hague, 41, who lives in the area and has owned her home for seven years, said: “The whole way HS2 dealt with residents has been shambolic.

“To make matters worse, insult has been added to injury, after an engineer told me: ‘HS2 have started to realise that not all residents are numpties.’”

The news announcing HS2 is no longer connecting Sheffield to Leeds had mixed reviews from many people in South Yorkshire. A recent council meeting addressed some of the issues.

“What do you think of the HS2 Eastern leg being cancelled?”

Cllr Shaffaq Mohammed Leader of the Liberal Democrats, who represents Eccleshall, said: “I am deeply saddened that HS2 has been derailed in our area, we don’t want to fall behind Leeds and Manchester who we should be competing with.”

Not everyone is disappointed with the result, though.  Nicki Williams from The Wildlife Trusts and director for campaigning communities said: “We have long campaigned against HS2 because of the huge damage it will do to nature and communities along the route.”

Craig Parkinson, a resident from Doncaster, believes HS2 would not benefit the city. He said: “Residents and the environment in which they live, have been sacrificed for the economic gains that would be felt by Leeds and Sheffield.”

What is HS2?

HS2 is a high speed rail service originally announced in 2012 and set up by the government to improve train transport between London and the North. It is funded by the state and with estimated costs that started at £36 billion but have now increased to an estimated £106 billion, despite the Eastern leg (phase 2b) being cancelled.

Mexborough Cllr, Sean Gibbons, said: “It’s a waste of money and there were not benefits in our area anyway, all we were getting was complete decimation.”

photo by Peter Bray/2020VISION

What is the impact of the Eastern leg being cancelled?

Other than transport issues in South Yorkshire, cancelling the Eastern leg has had major impact on those living in areas where properties are affected.  Cllr Gibbons stated the government are now Mexborough’s largest landlord and they own £12million worth of property.

Linsey Hague, 41, living on the shimmer estate in Mexborough spoke about her experience with being in the property zone for HS2 plans.

Ms Hague told Sheffield Wire: “We found out about the HS2 announcement back in July 2016, residents hadn’t been told anything prior to this. The Friday after the announcement all work on the estate came to a halt. We got an unofficial letter, something that looked fake.

“I looked at my husband and said, ‘is this a joke?’”

The Shimmer estate in Mexborough is home to a lot of young families. Linsey and her family moved into the property in March 2014. The homes have been safeguarded, meaning the government hold this land and everything on it until they decide what is going to be done with it, leaving many residents in a state of limbo.

photo of estate currently – taken two weeks ago by Cllr Sean Gibbons

In the first letter Linsey received she said she didn’t get sent a compulsory purchase order because the route hadn’t gone through parliament. When the route was revised planners looked at an old map from 2011 and didn’t realise they would be destroying a new build estate.

Ms Hague said: “We were gutted really, we had just decorated.

“We thought with the government it would be a fair deal. We would be looked after but we weren’t.”

She feels the residents were treated with a lack of respect. Ms Hague said a neighbour with a disabled daughter wasn’t allowed to do any work to her home, as this was banned by the notice served, so her daughter had to wash in a bathroom basin because she couldn’t make it up the stairs to the shower.

For any residents under a shared ownership scheme, they own a percentage of a house and resident owners own another percentage, these people were not eligible at all for any compensation schemes.

Homeowners didn’t know which houses would be knocked down but Ms Hague explained no one wanted to live by a large viaduct, which was planned to be installed in the centre of the estate. She explained homeowners were told they could sell their houses to the government and move but the problem was the valuations from the government were a lot less than market value.

Left: Andy Pickering, Centre: Sean Gibbons, Right: Bev Chapman

Ms Hague was offered a 10% compensation from HS2. Another neighbour had their house valued at the market value of £205,000 yet HS2 came in and offered them £130,000. It took two years to negotiate and she eventually had the offer increased to £173,000, but this was still too low to buy a like for like house.

“It was fraud. I know someone did have a breakdown,” revealed Ms Hague.

When asked about the future of the estate she said: “We have been told the estate will be finished but for four years nothing has happened. HS2 and Starta, had to go through the same communication but it was all kept quiet to residents. Starta told me they were going to do a final walk around and put plans in place, but we were under the impression this had already happened, again residents are being kept in the dark.

“No new builder will touch us either because they know the HS2 process is long.”

Ms Hague said a subcontracted engineer told her: “The rest of the HS2 route just isn’t viable. It’s not going to happen.”

“The whole thing has been disgusting.”

House prices have gone up 10% in Mexborough and councillor Gibbons said they are currently campaigning to get the extra £1 million the government have profited from this increase as compensation for residents.

Written by Lauren Kelly

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