Action pledge from minister over HS2 route through Mexborough

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Rail minister Paul Maynard has pledged to improve relations with Mexborough residents over HS2 plans after attending an 'angry' meeting in the town.

Mr Maynard sat down with residents, local councillors and Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband at Mexborough Business Centre to discuss what needed to be done to help those in the town who look set to be affected by the plans to route the high speed line line through the area.

Residents now look set to have forum meetings and will have a locally based contact to deal with over issues.

Andrew Sproston, who lives on the Shimmer estate, a housing development which is in the path of the planned route, said: "We found the minister was taking us seriously, and was shocked by what we were saying to him.

"It is clear now that the issue is not just about the Shimmer estate, and that there are other residents affected by this, and now he knows there is a wider view, and he toured the other locations."

He said he felt the fact that HS2 had made offers to buy people's homes or compensate then on Shimmer but not in other areas was divisive.

Mr Sproston said he had received an offer for his house from HS2 - but it was still for less than he had paid for it in.

He said: "I had an offer seven weeks ago that was 17 per less less than what I paid. They have come back with an increased offer but it is still less than what I paid.

"I paid £170,000. They originally offered £149,000. Now they have offered £162,500. I want to move now, but I'm not able to sell."

Coun Sean Gibson said the minister listened avidly, and thought Mr Maynard had got the message that that better compensation arrangements were needed for the residents.

"I think they recognise the need to liaise better, not just with Shimmer, but across the whole of Mexborough."

He said the plans could also affect residents at Schofield Farm, Doncaster Road, Mallery Drive, Don View and Melton View, and the minister would look to keep them informed and contact those living within 120m of the route.

MP Mr Miliband said: "He came to listen, which the residents appreciated, but now we need to see action.

He said HS2 needed to give residents more clarity on the plans and felt there had not been enough empathy for them.

"I think they have done an appalling job in explaining to residents what is happening. and giving them clarity.

"He will set up a forum with HS2, and we made it clear it has to go wider than Shimmer as there are people from across Mexborough affected.

"The minister heard real anger about the way people are being treated.

"The least people deserve is speedy action."

Mr Miliband is now looking to arrange a meeting with the minister in the next few weeks for residents in rural parishes such as Barnburgh and Hickleton, where the rail link is due to pass close.

Paul Griffiths HS2’s Managing Director, Phase Two said: “This morning’s meeting with the Rail Minister, Shimmer estate residents and their local representatives was extremely helpful. I welcome the clarity this provides in establishing a positive step forward for homeowners on the estate. I am fully aware of the uncertainty that residents have faced and we are committed to working together to reach a resolution which enables them to secure a comparable home.”

Mr Maynard confirmed an Advisory Forum was being set up.

The Department for Transport will be inviting members from local residents’ associations, the council and the independent HS2 Residents' Commissioner to sit on the panel which will meet for the first time in the next few weeks.

He said: “I’d like to thank local residents and their representatives for giving up their time to see me in Mexborough. It was a very constructive meeting. We will now move quickly to establish an Advisory Forum to better understand residents’ housing needs and how any additional support can be arranged. We will continue to work closely with all those affected to get the best outcome for everyone involved. I recognise that this is a difficult time for all residents affected by HS2. I appreciate their patience and want to reassure them they will be treated fairly and with compassion and respect.”

He said that the Government is working to introduce a scheme before the end of the year which will assist homeowners on the Shimmer estate who wish to move to secure a comparable local home.

He also confirmed that the Government and HS2 Ltd want to ensure the Shimmer development is completed. An agreement in principle has now been reached with the developer, Strata Homes, for the purchase of 30 houses and 16 vacant plots. Discussions are ongoing to finalise the arrangements and to agree timescales for completion of the development.