A Midland MP is proposing legislation to ensure compensation is offered to more homeowners affected by the planned new high speed rail line.
Caroline Spelman (Con Meriden) will present a Bill to the Commons scrapping government plans to limit full and guaranteed compensation to homes within 120 metres of the high speed rail track.
Under the current proposals, the Government will buy any homes within 120 metres of the planned rail line between London, Birmingham and the North at full market value.
But any owner of a home further away will need to prove they “have a strong personal reason to sell” – and that they stand to make “a significant loss” because the rail line has lowered the value of their property.
It means only 1,914 properties are guaranteed to be eligible for the full compensation, even though 172,000 homes are within a kilometre of the line proposed line or within 250 metres of a tunnel.
Mrs Spelman, a former Environment Secretary who supports plans to build a new 225mph line, will introduce legislation in March to ensure compensation is based on the level of noise at a property, not how far away it is from the track.
She said: “We need to change the current system which allows one home-owner full compensation but leaves his neighbour, who may be only a couple of extra metres from the line, with nothing, despite both having the same level of noise pollution.
“My Bill will call on the Government to use a more accurate measure for blight. I hope it will also reassure residents that I am on their side, fighting for the best compensation possible.”
The measure is unlikely to become law unless it is accepted by the Government, but her Bill will add to pressure on ministers to rethink the compensation scheme for the new line, known as High Speed Two or HS2.
Coventry MPs including Jim Cunningham (Lab Coventry South) and Geoffrey Robinson (Lab Coventry North West) have also demanded changes and sponsored a Commons motion warning: “If the Government cannot afford fair compensation, then it cannot afford HS2.”
However, ministers have are to end any remaining speculation about whether or not the high speed line will ever happen by introducing a “paving bill” to the House of Commons.
The legislation will confirm that the entire network is to be built with the backing of Parliament, including the first phase, from London to Birmingham, and the second phase, which involves building two lines north of Birmingham, to Leeds and Manchester.
It will authorise the Government to start spending money on the earliest stages of the new network, including carrying out detailed design work and carrying out ecological surveys.
By proving that Parliament is behind the proposals, Ministers hope to end uncertainty and encourage private sector investment.
Birmingham City Council and most Birmingham MPs support the proposal, which includes plans for a new station near Curzon Street in the city centre and a second station near Birmingham Airport, and business leaders say the rail line will boost the West Midlands economy by £1.5 billion per year and help create 22,000 jobs in the region.
Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council are among the opponents.
The legislation, known as a Paving Bill, will also answer criticism from Labour that the Government has been slow to commit itself to the second phase of the project.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “High speed rail is an engine for growth that will help drive regional regeneration, secure economic prosperity and support tens of thousands of jobs in Birmingham and across Britain. It is vital we press ahead with delivering this crucial project as quickly as possible.
“Introducing a Paving Bill will allow Parliament to underline our commitment to ensuring that Birmingham benefits from high speed rail. Crucially, it will also give us the spending powers much sooner that will enable us to get moving on the detailed design work for the scheme.
“This is an opportunity for all three main political parties to reaffirm their support for high speed rail and maintain the ambitious programme we have set for HS2.”
Meanwhile, a major row has broken out after Labour announced it would block plans to build a high speed rail maintenance depot in Birmingham – and could build it in Warwickshire instead.
The proposal has been condemned by a Warwickshire MP who pointed out that Birmingham will benefit most from high speed rail because it is to get a major new station in the city centre.
Dan Byles (Con, North Warwickshire & Bedworth) said he was “furious” that Labour planned to dump the “bad bits” of the scheme in his constituency.
The row focuses on proposals to build a depot for the planned 225mph rail line, known as High Speed Two or HS2, in Washwood Heath, in east Birmingham.
Washwood Heath MP Liam Byrne (Lab Birmingham Hodge Hill), who backs HS2, has campaigned against the depot because he wants the site to be used for a new business park, which he says could create 7,500 jobs.
In a recent House of Commons debate, Mr Byrne said the depot should instead be built in Warwickshire, telling MPs: “Much better sites are available. There are sites much closer to the Y junction at Birmingham international airport.”
The MP was referring to the two other sites that were initially shortlisted by HS2 Ltd, the business set up by the Government to oversee construction of the new rail network, at Middleton and at Coleshill in Warwickshire.