A compensation scheme for residents affected by the route of the planned HS2 high speed rail link will not be launched until the new year.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan in a letter that the scheme will now begin in January.

He had earlier indicated the scheme - to provide compensation to people whose lives would be blighted from living close to the proposed line - would start "by the end of 2014".

People living up to 300 metres away from the line, which will cut through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on its way from London to Birmingham, could be entitled to compensation after a consultation was run earlier this year.

But they will not be allowed to apply for any money until next year following Mr McLoughlin's announcement.

In his letter, Mr McLoughlin said: "Given the busy nature of the Christmas period, with many people away from home visiting family and friends, we want to ensure that residents and communities who may be affected by HS2 do not receive information in a piecemeal way and that everyone is informed at the same time in a clear way. On reflection that can best be achieved in January.

"I am confident that once the schemes are launched, HS2 Ltd and the guidance materials and application forms they have produced will meet these aims and enable the owner-occupiers near the line of the route of HS2 to be well informed and assist them to make the right choices for their circumstances.

"Any delay to applicants will in practice be very small and we consider that the January launch will be more successful in ensuring people are clear as to their entitlements and options."

Penny Gaines, chairman of the Stop HS2 campaign group, said: "This will be the fifth Christmas waiting for a proper compensation scheme for people who are affected by phase one of HS2.

"Many people affected by HS2 could have used time off work to read the documentation and start gathering the necessary information. Instead, the government are making them wait even longer."