Hands tied over HS2 route, say Leeds council chiefs

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Senior councillors have pledged to do what they can to help Leeds residents affected by a proposed high-speed rail route through the city, but they say their hands are very much tied by the project’s Whitehall bosses.

The SOWHAT campaign – Swillington, Oulton and Woodlesford HS2 Action Together – recently brought a deputation to Leeds city council, pleading for help to ensure they get their fair share of compensation when phase two of the flagship Government project linking London to Leeds and the North finally gets on track.

Campaigners say the proposed route will pass just yards from some of their homes and businesses, and property values will plummet.

However a meeting of the council’s executive board, which was asked to respond to the deputation, was told the authority has very limited scope to help its citizens.

Coun Richard Lewis, the city’s development and economy spokesman, acknowledged it was important for the council to investigate any potential impact on local communities,

However he added: “We were not part of the consultation on where the route went. We have not got the ability to design the route ourselves. We are very much a lesser partner in the discussions. But we will do what we can.”

He stressed it was important that the council doesn’t take responsibility “for things that were not ours”, but it should still “do for residents what we can”.

The Government has announced an ‘exceptional hardship scheme’ for those affected by the route. However it is only open “in special and limited circumstances to homeowners having an urgent and pressing need to sell” and is not a statutory scheme, a council report says.

The report adds: “HS2 is a national infrastructure project promoted by the Government, who have responsibility for all matters concerning the development of the proposals, including compensation. Ultimately the final decisions will rest with Parliament.”

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