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Call to review the UK's blight laws.

CURRENT blight laws need to be reviewed to assist people whose homes or land are affected by major infrastructure decisions taken in Westminster, a former Tory environment secretary said this week.

Caroline Spelman told MPs there was a need to be clearer about noise data sooner to "clear up the fear" that caused generalised blight.

Large infrastructure schemes, she argued, could take a huge amount of time to progress from the initial announcement to completion. The Land Compensation Act 1973, she added, made provision for compensation for the depreciation of property values caused by physical effects such as noise, but this compensation was only available a year after the infrastructure was built.

She said: "Having represented a constituency at the heart of the Midlands motorway network for almost 16 years, I've seen the impact of successive efforts to improve the national transport infrastructure, but often with harsh consequences for local residents." The Government's High Speed 2 proposals, she said, had brought a "new blight" to villages and a council estate in her constituency.

She said: "Once again, the statutory blight laws would mean compensation will not be paid until one year after HS2 opens in 2026, except on the grounds of hardship which are of course discretionary. This can add yet more uncertainty."

Mrs Spelman said her proposed Bill would require the Secretary of State to amend legislation to allow for noise contours to be used as a measure of property blight caused by national infrastructure projects.

She argued: "My Bill is designed to make the eligibility for compensation fairer and more scientifically based and to create parity between roads, rail and airports.

"The compensation scheme in place now based on meterage is not helping those who may feel the same physical effects of the scheme as their neighbour but a few extra metres away. I believe compensation should be paid out in advance of the railway opening in anticipation of the nuisance it will cause as modelled by noise contours." She concluded: "Blight laws need to be reviewed and changed to help those who through no fault of their own are blighted by decisions we make in Westminster. Adding flexibility to the way blight is measured and removing the strict meterage classification for the current compensation scheme, as well as recognising the loss in value of the property bond, would be a welcome reform for many."

Her Property Blight Compensation Bill was listed for a second reading on April 26 but is unlikely to become law due to a lack of Parliamentary time.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 9, 2013
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