'A national scandal': The Staffordshire ghost village where homes were needlessly bought by HS2

ITV News Central's Pablo Taylor reports...

A woman living next to a Staffordshire ghost village after HS2 purchased homes for the now-scrapped northern leg of the route, says it's been left in a state that's "shameful and a national scandal".

Whitmore was directly on the path of HS2's proposed route from Birmingham to Manchester, prompting several homeowners to sell their properties to the company. 

HS2 says it acquired 41 properties in the village.

The decision to scrap the railway’s northern leg in October has left several homes, each worth up to a million pounds, remaining empty with their gates chained up and their surroundings monitored by 24/7 CCTV. 

Deborah Mallender has been a fierce critic of HS2 and says the vacant homes are a waste of public money

Deborah Mallender, from neighbouring village Madeley, says the number of houses still vacant by the rail project is yet another example of its mismanagement.

“It’s shameful. It’s a scandal. It’s a national scandal. When people are crying out for money like councils, the NHS, education - all these people are crying out for extra cash and here we have public money, standing, rotting away.”

Some empty properties in Whitmore show signs of neglect

HS2 Ltd says some of the 41 properties in Whitmore are now being rented back to people on short-term contracts. 

Others have been left vacant for years, leading to fears that they’ve been damaged by damp, mould and pests.

Deborah Mallender told ITV News Central: “These houses should have all been put on the market by now and we should be having normal families looking at these houses, living in these houses. HS2 have left this area in the state of a dog’s breakfast.”

An active HS2 Ltd compound in Swynnerton, Staffordshire

The decision to scrap the Birmingham to Manchester leg was made by the government back in October at the Conservative Party Conference, in Manchester.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak lamented the project’s spiralling costs and frequent delays.

Despite that, there currently remains lots of HS2 activity across northern Staffordshire which has prevented some residents from leaving.

One homeowner, who wasn’t able to sell his house to HS2 Ltd, told ITV News Central he had been unable to sell his property on the market because buyers were uncertain about whether the rail project would be started in future.

Alastair Frew is a partner at Lodders Solicitors, who specialise in land and property. He says the ongoing association between HS2 and Whitmore means many residents may become trapped due to their inability to sell.

He said: “The poor people of Whitmore are in a bit of a predicament at the moment. If you were buying a house in a village where there was a chance that this big project might be resurrected you’d probably think ‘I’ll look at a different village’ and that’s the awful shame for those poor people who live there.”

Farmer, Edward Cavenagh-Mainwaring (left) sold part of his farmland to HS2 after 10 years of negotiation

But for others, the scrapping of the leg to Manchester represents a chance to seize back what was theirs.

Farmer Edward Cavenagh-Mainwaring sold his land to HS2 back in September after 10 years of stressful negotiation. 

The following month, the government cancelled the route. He admits he would buy back his fields, but only at the right price.

He said: “I have very strong attachments to the land that are hard to describe and probably hard for other people to comprehend.

"I hope that we are offered this land back and we’re in a position to repurchase it provided the land price reflects the price that they took it from us at.”

The government says it is still developing a programme for selling property no longer needed by HS2 - one which fully engages with the community. 

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