Inside abandoned millionaire's row bought up by 'unachievable' HS2 project

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A number of luxury properties have been vacated and locked up (Image: Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)
A number of luxury properties have been vacated and locked up (Image: Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)

This is the eerie millionaire's row where massive mansions bought up by crisis-hit HS2 are padlocked shut and now lay empty.

The troubled high-speed railway that is supposed to form the backbone of Britain's transport network was last week branded 'unachievable' by the Government's own watchdog. In one part of the country, there's no sign of the bulldozers or the workforce. There's just an odd silence.

Once-loved homes sit abandoned as the hamlet of Whitmore Heath in Newcastle-under-Lyme still awaits progress, the area is surrounded by countryside and is deafeningly quiet. But it is even quieter now because a large chunk of its population is missing.

Inside abandoned millionaire's row bought up by 'unachievable' HS2 project rriddqixxiqezinvThis is one of the vacated homes (Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)

That’s because the properties have been compulsorily purchased by HS2 which is due to pass underneath the multi-million-pound mansions adorning the hillside of Whitmore Heath, StokeOnTrentLive reports. These empty properties have been causing a whole range of issues for the residents who remain.

A report claims major issues with project definition, schedule, budget and quality "at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable". The rail link is now not scheduled to open until 2029 at the earliest as HS2 Ltd's chief executive Mark Thurston, 56, announced his resignation amid major delays and cost pressures for the project.

London flat for rent for £1,400 a month with bed tucked away in kitchen cupboardLondon flat for rent for £1,400 a month with bed tucked away in kitchen cupboard
Inside abandoned millionaire's row bought up by 'unachievable' HS2 projectThis is an example of another home bought by HS2 (Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)

Local councillor Paul Northcott says the situation has had a big impact on locals who have had to put up with significant upheaval over the past few years. He said: “The general feeling of the community has changed because of the saga of the people who live on the heath, in terms of the homes acquisition process.

"It’s been very drawn out. That’s contributed to a feeling of uncertainty, that the village is neither here nor there. HS2 is also still hanging over them in terms of the actual physical work that will be undertaken if it goes ahead. People think the area is not the same as it was anymore and I happen to agree with them."

Inside abandoned millionaire's row bought up by 'unachievable' HS2 projectThe sense of community has been ripped out of affluent Heath Road, in Whitmore Heath (Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)

Whitmore, Whitmore Heath and Baldwins Gate used to be communities where everyone knew everyone. But big housing developments are turning neighbouring Baldwins Gate into a dormitory village stuffed with executive homes, according to locals. Mr Northcott added: “Before, everybody tended to know each other and spoke to each other by bumping into each other in the village shop. It changes the dynamic of the village completely.”

Now HS2 has brought in security to patrol the eerie lanes of Whitmore Heath in a bid to protect the empty properties it owns and keep them free from anti-social behaviour. Security patrol in a Land Rover Defender every few hours.

Mr Northcott added: “Being associated with that sort of behaviour becomes real because people are aware of it. The whole community feels it. People get very protective of their area and when something like this happens it’s not very palatable.” HS2 currently owns 35 properties in Whitmore Heath. Latest data revealed 16 of them are rented out - with 19 currently empty.

HS2 senior community engagement manager Victoria Roberts said: “We will always let properties on the open market, that’s our aim. We want to make sure those properties aren’t empty if we can help it. The only exception to that is where getting those properties up to a lettable standard is not value for the taxpayer.”

Richard Price

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