The UK government has spent £63m buying 106 homes as part of a compensation scheme for homeowners living near the proposed route of the controversial HS2 high-speed rail project.
If it goes ahead, the rail line will run from London to Birmingham by 2026 and to Manchester and Leeds by 2033.
More than 500 homeowners have applied to sell their property to the state, with estate agents saying tens of thousands of homes along the route have lost up to a quarter of their value, according to the Financial Times.
The majority of these applications have been rejected, though 106 homes have been purchased at an average price of almost £600,000. Most of these properties have since been rented out.
According to estate agents Hamptons International, Countrywide and Lambert Smith Hampton, prices of homes within 500 metres of the route have fallen by an average of 6.9% in the past 12 months.
The government scheme assures people living closest to the route that their homes can be sold “at the full un-blighted value.”
However, critics of the high-speed project have warned that rising house prices may be one of many expenses that could cause the cost of HS2 to soar beyond official estimates.
The disputed cost is just one reason opponents have gathered to protest against HS2. Critics also hold a number of other concerns about its potential environmental impact.
Campaigners have said that the official environmental impact assessment of the project demonstrates “a shocking disregard” for England’s wildlife.
These comments came after it was revealed 43 areas of ancient woodland would be threatened by the development, although this figure has now been revised by the Woodland Trust to be 49.
Opponents have also refuted claims that the rail line will help the UK lower its carbon emissions, pointing to a paper by HS2 Ltd that says carbon emissions caused by the line will outweigh carbon savings over the first 60 years of operation.
However, supporters have claimed that the north of England will be badly affected if the project does not go ahead. Some MPs have argued that only HS2 can provide the increased capacity that UK’s rail lines need.
Last week, a group of rail industry leaders claimed that scrapping HS2 would cost the UK investment and jobs and result in slower rail services and congested roads.
Sir David Higgins, the new chairman of HS2, is expected to publish a report on Monday that will put forward how the development can be completed earlier and for less money.