Residents 'Distraught' At Prospect of Losing Their Homes to HS2

15 November 2016, 19:27 | Updated: 15 November 2016, 19:29

Residents on a new housing estate who could lose their homes when HS2 is built have expressed their anger after the Government set out its preferred route for the second phase of the high-speed rail project.

Ministers have suggested that the £55.7 billion railway should serve the existing Sheffield city centre station, after proposals to run trains to the Meadowhall shopping centre were shelved.

But critics have warned this may mean the new Shimmer housing estate in nearby Mexborough could be bulldozed.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said he recognised the difficulties faced by communities along the route and insisted they will be treated with "fairness, compassion and respect''.

He added that the compensation package will be introduced for people who will lose their homes which "goes over and above what is required by law''.

Phase 1 of HS2 is due to open in December 2026 and will see trains travel at high speed between London and Birmingham before running on from Birmingham on the existing West Coast Main Line.

A second Y-shaped phase will open in two stages. Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe will launch in 2027 and phase 2b, from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds, South Yorkshire and the East Midlands, will open in 2033.

A number of properties on the Shimmer estate, a housing development of two and three-storey town houses situated on the banks of a canal, display anti-HS2 posters on their windows.

Building work continues in one section of the site, while residents said some houses had been abandoned half-built.

Leigh Smith moved on to the estate in June and said she found out about the HS2 plans just three weeks later.

She told the Press Association: "We thought it was a joke.

"We used absolutely every bit of money we could get to buy this, it's our first home.

"I'm just devastated. We're all distraught. I've never seen my husband like it.''

She added that HS2 planners did not initially know the estate existed as it was so new it did not appear on maps.

"My neighbour rang HS2 and our house isn't even recognised on the postcode yet, they didn't even know it was there,'' Mrs Smith said.

"When they googled it, this wasn't here, it was just a piece of empty land.''

Another resident Rachel Ridler, 29, a charity fundraiser and mother of two, described the HS2 decision as "heartbreaking''.

She said: "I just couldn't believe it in the first place. I thought maybe it's just cutting a corner of the estate, maybe it won't be going through my house, maybe they've got mixed up, maybe it's not really happening.

"But the more you look at it, the more you see that the whole of our estate is going to go and the more upset I got.''

An HS2 spokeswoman said the project's planners were aware of the Shimmer estate's existence when the revised route proposals were published in July, but Ordnance Survey maps used to illustrate the line had not been updated to show the housing development.

She added: "We estimate that there will be approximately 16 potential demolitions based on the operational footprint of the railway at Shimmer, and we are committed to working with local residents to minimise the potential impacts.

"All home owners on the Shimmer estate are entitled to receive compensation, providing 110% of the value of their home, should they choose to sell, plus associated moving costs and legal fees.''

Campaigners in Liverpool have warned that the city will be disadvantaged by the decision not to extend the high speed line there.

Ed Cox, of think tank IPPR North, said HS2 "must go hand-in-hand'' with plans to connect northern cities from Liverpool in the west to Hull and Newcastle in the east via HS3.

The Department for Transport has launched a consultation on seven sections of the proposed route for phase 2b, which will run until March 9 next year.

Maps showing a possible route for the northern section of HS2 were first released in January 2013.

In June Whitehall spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that the project has an "unrealistic timetable'' and was under financial strain.

The Government has claimed that passengers travelling on the East Coast and West Coast main lines will benefit from more services and extra seats once HS2 is up and running although the current estimate for completion of all of phase 2 is not until 2033.

Mr Grayling said: "The full HS2 route will be a game-changer for the country that will slash journey times and perhaps most importantly give rail passengers on the existing network thousands of extra seats every day.''

Andrew Weaver, chief executive of Strata - the firm that built the Shimmer estate, said: "Despite today's announcement regarding HS2's preferred, second-phase route, we are still left with a great deal of uncertainty whilst detailed consultations get under way regarding where to site the new Sheffield station, which impacts upon Mexborough and the Shimmer development.

"Residents from Shimmer remain our priority as we continue to liaise with HS2 and the Department for Transport (DfT) to obtain clarity and answers to our questions.

"We are back on-site following a commitment regarding partially-built properties and our focus remains on establishing a comprehensive plan to complete the development, so that our residents are not left living in an unfinished environment.

"Throughout this frustrating and upsetting period, we will continue to keep residents from Shimmer updated on our progress and on any decisions, that are made.''