Further update added 30th April 2021 - previous readers - scroll to the bottom of the page
THE STORY SO FAR....
In January 2013 plans and route details for the HS2 High Speed Railway were released and it certainly came as something of a shock to discover that we now faced the prospect of a high speed railway running at the edge of our property. Our concerns were based on the sensitive nature of the dogs we rescue who can be seriously affected by noise, vibration etc.
We contacted our local MP, Michael Fabricant and joined a village campaigning group.
2015 - 2017
By 2015 plans had become much more detailed and it was now clear that the effect on our centre and work would be significant. We engaged the services of Chartered Surveyors, Fisher German, in January 2016 to advise us and act on our behalf in negotiations with HS2 to explain these concerns and to begin discussions on finding solutions. We responded expeditiously to any requests for information and to allow HS2 access to the property for impact and any associated surveys.
In July 2017 further changes to the plans revealed that we now faced losing at least 50% of our exercise paddock which would be required for the re-routing of a local lane, Moor Lane. This loss of land meant that in addition to the effects of the railway we now had a serious reduction in the land available to us to carry out the welfare needs of the dogs in our care and it was clearly apparent that our own relocation appeared the only way forward.
Despite further discussions no further progress was made until February when, after taking advice from Fisher German, they submitted a Blight Notice, on our behalf, on HS2.
On 5th June the Blight Notice was rejected on the basis that because the premises consisted of a business aspect but also a domestic house (owned by the Trust) the notice did not relate to a single hereditament.
Whilst consideration was being given to an appeal, HS2 then offered to meet us again to discuss a way forward.
On the 11th September 2018 a meeting was held at Border Collie Trust with several representatives from HS2, Fisher German and ourselves. As a result of that meeting HS2 agreed to purchase the property subject to us withdrawing our appeal to the Upper Tribunal. There was without doubt a verbal understanding expressed by HS2 of our unique situation and the need for us to be able to identify a suitable location for a new centre and the ability to remain at our current site until such time as that centre was completed.
It was intimated during the meeting that a valuation and offer could be expected within six to eight weeks.
However, HS2 made no further progress until 2020, almost two years later!
2020 - 21
Despite continued pressure the valuation did not take place until 3rd August, 23 months since that meeting in 2018. The valuation report was dated 17th August but not presented to Border Collie Trust until 4th September by Mr P Lidgley (from Lambert Smith Hampton acting for HS2) on the very day a further meeting with him took place. This gave us no opportunity to be able to process the report and discuss fully on the day. The survey did indeed raise several questions in respect of the valuation, the most serious being the issue of the septic tanks and drainage at the centre which will be seriously affected by the HS2 works.
In addition we wrote on the 28th September, this being the second time we had contacted him, to the HS2 Minister, Mr. Stephenson MP, asking for help in dealing with the impasse we found ourselves facing. A reply to the letter of the 28th September was received on the 7th October which merely outlined the discussions of the meeting of the 4th September. The final paragraph in his reply reads, "It is important that the Trust takes active steps to secure a replacement facility now as the acquisition process is nearing completion. That is the responsibility of the Trust. I have, however, instructed HS2 Ltd to continue to engage constructively with the Trust to establish what further support could be provided."
Yet again a complete failure to understand we cannot find facilities without a firm offer AND agreement on all the compensation required.
Despite email requests to Mr. Lidgley sent on the 9th and 24th September, 27th October for an update on our responses to the valuation, no acknowledgment or reply was received.
During the discussions on 4th September, Mr Lidgley repeatedly suggested an offer in respect of the property could be made within four to six weeks in the region of £1million, dependant on the valuation, but also repeatedly refused to offer any real tangible support in respect of further compensation other than basic fees and losses that are statutory in these matters.
Further efforts, by email, to gain a response from Mr Lidgley and/or HS2 regarding these matters were sent on 10th November, 25th November, 17th December, 11th January 2021, 20th January 2021, 28th January 2021 and 1st February 2021
By the 10th February 2021 no communication or even an acknowledgement had been received from HS2.
In 2017 the NFU provided a reinstatement report on our current site to the value of £1,094,000. This would be the estimated cost, at that time, to rebuild our current centre. Our argument has consistently been that a full compensation package must take into account the costs to develop a new site to nothing more, or less, than the level we enjoy now. We now feel that throughout the past seven years we have simply been paid lip service to, with no real understanding of our situation and no serious intention to help resolve the difficult future we face.
Looking at potential properties over the last few years have made it very clear that any funds we receive in respect of the sale of our current site will in no way fund the purchase AND development of a new centre.
The Trust does not believe it should be penalised by this national project by using its own funds and the simple fact is, we do not have the amount of funds that would be necessary, without leaving ourselves financially at incredible risk. We are now seriously concerned that we could face the prospect of purchasing another property without the funds to develop and then in effect find ourselves "homeless" , through no fault of our own.
Issues with compensation packages across the route of HS2 have been reported on numerous occasions and our dealings to date with HS2 lead us to believe we will experience the same issues on the sale of our property and remove the hope we had for a fair and just result.
We feel that this inaction from HS2 leaves us with no other alternative than to try to adapt to the next few years, the immense challenges we will face here at Colton and perhaps begin the long haul towards funding any future plans by ourselves. We await answers from HS2 with interest.
16th February 2021 - after several days of this information being made public and whilst of course coincidental, on the 15th February our agent forwarded to us an offer for our property dated 10th February. However, this offer was based on the valuation made on 3rd July 2020 and of which we have repeatedly asked for answers and further explanations. Those questions have at this point not been answered or responded to. The offer itself may lead to various other questions and concerns which will be considered once the valuation queries have been dealt with.
21st February 2021 - complaints in respect of the failure to repond to our questions have now been submitted. We are told the valuation matters are being dealt with and appreciate the recent contact from HS2's Community Relations Department. We now need to see some positive action. In the meantime we came across an interesting story involving a school on Warwickshire that was losing part of its playing field for HS2. Somewhat similar to our situation and a precedent perhaps? - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-29838952
We have also relayed our difficulties to our MP, Mr M. Fabricant, he replied to us on 16th February - "Thank you very much for your e-mail regarding HS2. I was sorry to hear of the problems you are experiencing. I have, therefore, raised your case with the Chief Executive of HS2 Limited, Mark Thurston, and I shall let you have the reply as soon as it is received."
9th March 2021 - a reply to Mr Fabricants letter is received, dated 8th March from Mark Thurston CEO HS2. As expected it fails to answer the questions we've raised and provides simply a history of the story so far. It is interesting to note there is no comment on the delay between September 2018 and July 2020 when apparantly HS2's agent and ours reached broad agreement on property value, a month before HS2 even carried out a valuation, other than it's claimed the drainage system has extended the negotiating process but this has now been resolved. That was not surveyed until the second half of 2020 and considering we have yet to see the report we certainly do not accept it has been resolved. We understood that "broad agreement" was little more than they expected the value to be between x and y. Hardly an agreement?
In addition it appears the Trust has "more recently suggested it should be relocated based on equivalent reinstatment" Since 2015 and especially since 2017 we have made it very clear to HS2 we need to move from this property. A strange interpretation of "more recently" in our view. Following further discussions with our agent, they are now putting together a further response to HS2
24th March 2021 - one of the complaints was to the Royal Institiute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to the effect that the agent employed on behalf of HS2 to deal with our case failed on numerous occasions between September 2020 and February 2021 to acknowledge emails, provide information requested or answer questions asked of him. Yesterday we received the result of their investigation. "I understand it is a frustrating situation the member has not responded to all the queries asked on behalf of Border Collie Trust, but this was not a serious enough breach for RICS to investigate further" Their own Personal and Professional Standards says, "Members shall carry out their professional work with due skill, care and diligence and with proper regards for standards of service and customer care expected of them" We have rejected their decision and await the decision of the complaint to the agents own company. Meanwhile, we still await those answers.
2nd April 2021 - a response to our complaint with the company acting as agents for HS2 in respect of the failure to respond to repeated requests for information and answers has been received and can be summarised as, "At all times *** attempted to work with your agent to achieve a satisfactory conclusion that we could recommend to our client. In so far as some steps took longer than you would have liked we can only apologise for this and any perceived lack of communication at that time...........it is acknowledged that this period of the negotiation may have taken longer than ideal and again I offer my apologies." Perceived? so in other words the fact we did not get any replies and answers was just our preception. Never mind, I suppose an apology for something that apparently didn't happen was the best we could hope for!
We have recently commissoned a report from a specialist company designing and building kennels to outline the estimated cost of our relocation. This has been sent to HS2's agent and The Minister of State, Department of Transport outlining the whole issue of relocation and requesting a firm committment, from HS2, to agree their intention to fund accordingly.
Meanwhile HS2's promises are once more questioned - https://www.leamingtoncourier.co.uk/news/people/petition-urges-hs2-to-keep-its-promise-to-childrens-charity-near-kenilworth-and-complete-work-at-the-site-3186389
23rd April - With a request for a response to our latest information and supplied report, within 21 days, the inevitable lack of even an acknowledgment from either the agent for HS2 or the Minister of State, Department of Transport was to be expected. When our agent asked for an update on the 22nd April he was advised that HS2's agent is "still waiting for HS2 to provide instructions as to what he can say to me"
30th April - despite years of negotiations it seems HS2 still don't know who owns the rescue centre. Three separate letters received this week addressed, two to the occupants of the Trust house and one to the Trust requiring certain Health & Safety Information for the "property you own". I took great pleasure in responding -
"Thank you for the two letters today in respect of the above. As per my email yesterday regarding the one to my wife I will be returning the one addressed to me personally at my home address as I/We do not own the property.
Will you please ensure that your records are up to date and accurate and I request that you do not write to myself or my wife again. Please confirm that you have updated your records accordingly. Any further correspondence addressed to my wife will result in a complaint being lodged. I'm sure we can all avoid such unnecessary action very easily.
In respect of the third letter addressed quite correctly to the owners of the property - Border Collie Trust (Great Britain) we will be delighted to provide the answers to your questions in a timely manner, once the answers to our questions dating back to September 2020 and a confirmation that your offer of full compensation is agreed and documented in a clear and unambiguous manner have been received.
We look forward to such confirmation and answers."
Media Editors Note
Border Collie Trust GB is a registered charity 1053585. Funded entirely by public donation and support. Rescuing and rehoming Border Collies and collie crosses throughout the UK. In 1997 the Trust purchased its current site at Colton, Rugeley, Staffordshire. From 1997 to 2020 almost 9,500 dogs have been rehomed from the centre. Currently jobs are provided for 11 employees and our boarding kennels provides services for local, and not so local dog owners.