THOUSANDS of residents and property owners have been left baffled and in the dark over the Government's plans to compensate those affected by the planned £6 billion London-Birmingham high speed rail link, the High Court has heard.
Top barrister, David Wolfe QC, representing objectors to the scheme, pointed out that over 172,000 homes within a kilometre of the "HS2" line will be adversely affected, but cited complaints from a cluster of people who got "no answers" on the fraught issue of compensation.
He highlighted the case of one retired project director, with a home near HS2, who attended six roadshows at which he asked for "more details on compensation proposals".
The only response he received touched on the issue of compulsory purchase, which was irrelevant to his case, and he was brushed off with the answer that "the detail would come later", Mr Wolfe told the High Court.
The QC criticised the straight "lack of detail" behind the Government's compensation proposals, which he said failed to tackle the "generalised blight" likely to be caused for many years by the HS2 proposals.
The new rail link could have a devastating impact on property values in affected areas, even though the scheme may not come into effect for another 15 to 20 years, argued the barrister.
And people whose "main asset" properties are already dipping in value still had no clear idea about the possible scope of compensation, he said, nor how close to the line a property owner needed to be to qualify.
"Consultees were given insufficient information for the consultation to be fair and lawful," added Mr Wolfe.
"This was consultation of members of the public on an issue of very great importance to many of them - their biggest asset."
The vexed question of compensation was raised as a cluster of local authorities, campaign groups, and Aylesbury Golf Club, take on the Government in a bid to halt the massive rail project.
Their lawyers say key environmental and habitat protection issues were sidelined in pushing through the scheme, and that the Department of Transport's consultation process was deeply flawed.
The first phase of HS2 is planned to slash journey times - with trains travelling up to 400kmh between London and Birmingham by 2026. A second phase would then extend the line to Manchester and Leeds, raising the total cost from s16 billion to s34 billion.
Campaigners say more than 172,000 homes within a kilometre of the line will be stricken by noise and other disturbance, and that the mere existence of the plans will result in "planning blight" and cripple the local property market.
The hearing is due to conclude tomorrow (Thursday), but Mr Justice Ouseley is expected to leave campaigners on tenterhooks by reserving his decision on the challenge until a later date.