Land earmarked for the HS2 routes now scrapped will not be protected for potential future expansion of the high-speed railway, the Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed.
Railway consultant William Barter described the decision as “ludicrous” and an act of “spite”.
Under a process known as safeguarding, land on those routes was protected to stop conflicting developments taking place.
Some residents also voluntarily sold their homes to HS2 Ltd.
The DfT said safeguarding will be lifted in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire “at the earliest opportunity” to “remove the uncertainty that has surrounded thousands of people along the route”.
It went on: “The land acquisition programme on Phase 2a (between the West Midlands and Crewe) will be halted immediately and HS2 will not be accepting new applications under the existing schemes from property owners in the areas where safeguarding is going to be lifted.
“Any property that is no longer required for HS2 will be sold and a programme is being developed to do this.”
Mr Barter said this means planned phases beyond the West Midlands “will never happen”, which he described as “madness”.
He said the scrapped Phase 2a would have provided “a lot of value for relatively little cost as it’s just a straightforward line”.
He added: “He (Mr Sunak) shouldn’t design out the potential to do that.
“That would just be spite.”
Rail engineer and writer Gareth Dennis wrote on social media platform X, previously known as Twitter, that the Government’s actions were “deliberate vandalism”.
He added: “It’s the sale of our future and the UK’s economic prosperity for another half a century.”
Phase 2a safeguarding will be formally lifted in the coming weeks.
For Phase 2b – between the West Midlands and Manchester – safeguarding will be amended by summer 2024 to allow for plans under Northern Powerhouse Rail.