Smart moves when a road draws near: Compensation can help if planners run over your dream home

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THERE are many different ways of finding out that a new road is to be routed through your front garden. Lesley and Alexander Hukins only discovered it by accident.

Although they had believed they would not be affected by the Kent road scheme, the couple went to a protest meeting in the summer of 1992.

Mrs Hukins, a Marie Curie cancer relief nurse, said: 'We were only there because we wanted to show our support for the others. Then my husband said to me: 'I think you had better have a look at this map. There's a road going through our garden.' It was a bit of a shock.'

Within 18 months, the couple were forced to move out of the bungalow they had lived in for more than 13 years.

Their home and garden were bought by the Department of Transport as part of its road- building programme through Romney Marshes, Kent. Today, the empty property is gradually falling into disrepair as cars whizz past it on the new A259, near Brookland.

Yet the Hukinses were among the lucky ones. The compensation they received - the full value of the property plus 10 per cent, as laid down by law - was enough to finance their move to another house nearby.

The DoT also paid all their legal and removal expenses, as well as those of an experienced surveyor whom the couple finally hired to argue their case.

Despite the Government's recent announcement that it is pruning its road-building programme, many thousands of people are likely to find themselves in a similar position to the Hukinses.

As the DoT prepares to decide the exact route the Channel tunnel rail link will follow, more Kent residents wait to discover whether the blight that has wiped tens of thousands of pounds off the value of their homes and made them unsaleable will finally be lifted.

Some will find their worst nightmare has been confirmed. For them, as for others facing major new roads outside their homes, there are steps that can be taken.

John Goad, a Kent-based surveyor working for Black Horse Professional Services, a Lloyds Bank subsidiary, said: 'In these cases the law is quite clear. Under the Land Compensation Act passed in 1974, the couple were entitled to the full market price for their property plus 10 per cent, and and all other costs.

''The problem is in situations where a road is built but no part of a particular property is required by the DoT, even though the road is right outside the home.

'In those cases, the property owner has to wait for a year to see the extent of any nuisance to the home. Limited compensation is then payable, but it excludes loss of privacy or loss of view.'

Don Cooke, a colleague of Mr Goad, previously worked for British Rail, negotiating the purchase of homes blighted by the proposed Channel tunnel rail link.

He said: 'At the moment, compensation for those whose properties are not needed but are still affected by the railway is decided on the basis of the 1974 Act.

'There has not been an entire railway line built since the turn of the century, before the compensation laws came into being. All previous lines were dealt with by acts of Parliament. It is still not clear whether the final route through Kent will be enacted in the same way.

'If so, then there would be scope for the legislation to contain provision for compensation over and above any existing terms.' At least one local Conservative MP believed the Government might be amenable to higher payouts, Mr Cooke said.

None of this is any comfort to Mrs Hukins or her husband. She said: 'We got the full amount of compensation we were entitled to and I can't argue with that, although it did take an enormous amount of time.

'We are are also glad we took professional advice in the end, because things would have been quite awful otherwise. But we still drive past our old bungalow from time to time and, no matter what, being forced to leave our home in this way was a wrench.'

(Photograph omitted)