On Tuesday, the latest batch of additional provisions was put before Parliament by Tranport Robert Goodwill. Robert Goodwill, transport minister, said more details of the proposals will be made available on 13th July. There will be a public consultation on the environmental statement lasting 42 days planned to run from Friday 17 July to Friday 28 August and petitioning on the proposals will begin on Friday 17 July and end on Friday 14 August.
There was criticism of both the short notice and lack of information about the differences due to the additional provision from MPs who are in favour of HS2 as well as those opposed to it.
MPs critised the way HS2 Ltd engages – or rather doesn’t engage – with affected individuals with Andy Slaughter saying “HS2 acts in a vacuum and often in a way that does not appear to take account of anything else going on around it”, including other railways.
Several MPs highlighted the lack of notice of the details of the debate, and the short period for petitioning and the associated environmental statement. Fiona Mactaggart, made the point that the additional provisions were a “big surprise” to her constituency of Slough, who thought HS2 was nowhere near them and that HS2 Ltd had not kept Slough Borough Council fully aware.
Cheryl Gillan said she’d raised a point of order last week about the lack of information, before the debate, and pointed out that the document realeased to MPs was dated July
Both Fiona MacTaggart and Dominic Grieve were concerned about the relocation of Heathrow Express depot, the new location of which which would affect their constituents: Andy Slaughter, whose constituency it was being moved from was concerned about the lack of notice he had received. The relocation would have knock on effects of other transport proposals: these included HGV links (Iver relief road) and western rail access to Heathrow.
There was praise for the select committee from several MPs.
Caroline Spelman said that some of the changes were labelled as being “petitioner requests”, but said that in some cases there were several affected petitioners who had differing opinions on particular issues.
Concerns were raised that HS2 Ltd appear to ignore what HS2 Select committee have said. For instance Liam Byrne said: “The provisions set out today on the Saltley business park do nothing to address the Committee’s concerns; in fact, they take out even more industrial land in the city of Birmingham. It could be that the site is proposed today for the relocation of business, but we simply do not know.”
Due to the lack of timely communications, both Cheryl Gillan and Andy Slaughter – opposed to each other politically and of differing views about HS2 – argued there should be some kind of czar or sultan to oversee HS2 ltd.
Lilian Greenwood asked when the Euston additional provisions and the route of Phase 2 would be announced. Goodwill said that he expected to bring forth additional provisions on Euston this year and that he would give Greenwood “some more information on the other point she raises when appropriate”.
Here are some of the longer quotes we thought interesting:
Lilian Greenwood: “Does the Minister agree that it is unacceptable that a number of my hon. Friends have not been informed of the fact that the additional provisions would affect their constituencies? I know from discussions with a number of Members that they have had no communication from HS2 Ltd, or indeed from the Department, and consequently have had only one day’s notice that the changes are being debated. I know that the changes are a cause of concern to a number of hon. Friends. That situation is unacceptable, so I hope that the Minister will take it up with officials. The situation must not be repeated when further additional provisions are brought before the House.”
Cheryl Gillan:“I have taken up enough time, because I would like to leave time for others who are more severely affected by the additional provisions. I opened the papers this morning to see that HS2 Birmingham to London passengers want onboard GPs, shops and gyms. I repeat to d the Minister that I hope we get a fully bored tunnel in the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty, because I do not want our precious landscape to be sacrificed for the novel experience of high-speed shopping and muscle toning.”
Mrs Caroline Spelman: My main concern is with the additional provisions as they affect the approach to Birmingham International railway station, the new interchange station. Hon. Members will appreciate that its location is very important in terms of the orientation of the route, and one proposed change, on page 108 of the report, would appear to change the road infrastructure on the approach to the station. The road in question is Diddington Lane, and the document refers to the changes that the “Landowner/Petitioner request”. But my difficulty, a common problem that all Members will have, is that there is more than one petitioner on some of these things. As I said in an earlier intervention, at that location there are differences of opinion. The lane has along its length an Island Project school for children with severe learning difficulties, for whom relocation remains unresolved.
I just cannot tell from the map, frankly, what the new route is, and that makes it very difficult for me to know how the change to the road network is going to affect various people in my constituency. At that point the line severs a number of landowners’ holdings, to the point where some farms might no longer be viable, so I impress upon the Minister how important it is that Members of Parliament have a better quality map than the one provided, because I cannot understand the one I am looking at.
Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): >I have to say thank you to the Minister, who has been very courteous in informing me of what is coming up. That is in quite a degree of contrast to the HS2 project team, which has not kept Slough Borough Council fully aware of what is being proposed, and it has come to a bit of a shock to the council. As a place, Slough is very supportive of big transport infrastructure projects. Heathrow airport’s third runway will come into the borough of Slough, if it happens, yet we are backing it because we realise that these kinds of projects are essential to national economic growth. However, Slough has not been kept fully informed of what has happened, and therefore, I echo the concerns of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) about the consultation period on these areas happening in July and August. Although the Minister is right to say that not everybody goes on holiday in July and August, that is when most of my constituents with children do. Because Slough thought that HS2 was to do with other parts of the world and had nothing to do with Slough—none of the original proposals involved anything to do with Slough—it will not be geared up for petitioning, whereas communities on the route of HS2 were geared up by newspaper stories and so on. That is a real issue.
Andy Slaughter: “As I say, I do not object to the proposals, and I am sympathetic to the difficulties of the logistics of the task, but I do find that HS2 acts in a vacuum and often in a way that does not appear to take account of anything else going on around it—and that includes other railways. I am pleased to have one of the country’s major interchanges in my constituency, but the way things are going at the moment, it is going to be a dog’s breakfast of an interchange.”
Some issues “not been thought about, or has been thought about and then dismissed and put in the “too difficult” box.”
Lilian Greenwood: Before the Minister finishes, will he clarify when he expects to introduce the additional provisions relating to Euston and when the Government expect to confirm the line of route for phase 2?