A Staffordshire couple are among the first to have sold their home to the Government under a scheme to compensate people living on the route of the proposed high speed rail line.
Brian and Dorothy Hill have agreed a “six-figure sum” for Hunts Green Dairy Farm, near Tamworth, in a deal which will give hope to thousands who face seeing the value of properties and businesses wiped out.
The couple, who are in their 60s, were not on the direct line of the route and it was not due to cross their land but their solicitor argued successfully that the farm was unlikely ever to be sold for a sum close to its market value.
The 10-acre farm with stables had been put on the market just months before the Government announced the route for the 250mph link between Birmingham and London.
Mr and Mrs Hill did not want to comment on the payout but their solicitor Jacqui Fulton said the couple were “shocked and distressed” to find that the route came within 100 metres of their land and 250 metres of their house.
Contracts have been exchanged and the house and land will change hands within weeks for the full market value, said Mrs Fulton.
The Birmingham Post can reveal that the Government has already paid £13.8m for just 20 homes and businesses on or close to the route – even though there is no guarantee that the £30 billion project will ever go ahead.
A further 65 applications have been rejected and a further 30 are being considered by the Department for Transport (DfT).
Mrs Fulton, who runs Tamworth-based Equine Law, said it had been harder for many claimants to prove that they qualify for the Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) than was anticipated.
“It has proved a lot harder and some people have been flatly rejected,” she added. “But I hope that this case will give homeowners some encouragement.
"Mr and Mrs Hill were worried that they could end up in this house and be blighted by high speed trains until the day they died. They are extremely relieved. It is people in exactly their situation who the scheme is aimed at but it does appear incredibly difficult to fulfil the criteria.”
The EHS was launched after the Government earmarked the likely route for the rail line between London and Birmingham last year. It is aimed at people who can prove that they would suffer financial hardship because of the announcement because they need to sell their houses in the near future.
Those who have no immediate requirement to leave but could find themselves directly on the path of the line are likely to have their homes bought in the future under compulsory purchase arrangements.
At least one home is known to have been sold and boarded up in the Warwickshire village of Burton Green.
High speed rail could be running as early as 2026 if the Government can defeat growing opposition to the plans in the Midlands and further south in the Chilterns and Buckinghamshire.
One farmer who said he would not accept an EHS payout was Gordon Davies, who owns Middleton Hall Farm, near to Tamworth, with brother Robert. The line would split the 265-acre farm in two.
The farm includes a new commercial development and a listed site of an ancient moat and woods where the remains of six family members have been scattered.
Mr Davies, aged 55, said: “My family have been here for 100 years and we plan to be here for another 100. We’re not about to accept a payout and leave and I don’t suggest that anybody should unless they have to.
"At the moment we are waiting to see what happens and we hope that the line won’t go ahead at all. We’ve put too much work in to the farm over several generations to turn our backs for any amount of money.”
Jerry Marshall, chairman of the Burton Green Stop HS2 action group, said he was aware that a resident on Hodgetts Lane in the village had sold his property because it has already been on the market when the route was identified.
Mr Marshall’s own house would need to be demolished to make way for a deep cutting which is planned to run through the middle of the quiet village, along the line of an old railway that was closed by Dr Richard Beeching in the 1960s.
But he said he had not applied under the EHS because he had been advised he would need to prove a pressing need to leave the area, such as a new job.
He said: “I know it would be quite futile for me to waste my time applying so I haven’t and if it does go ahead then the majority of people in Burton Green will be compensated by compulsory purchase orders.
"Our position is that we don’t believe there’s a business case for high speed rail and I suspect that eventually these houses will be sold back the public because this vanity project will never go ahead.”
The Department for Transport said there was no cap on the money that was available for payouts under the EHS. A consultation on the route is expected to be launched later this month.