Last week, the HS2 Residents’ Commissioner issued her latest report. For someone who is employed directly by HS2 Ltd and despite her title doesn’t actually talk to residents, there were some positives, in that the report highlighted ongoing failures from HS2 Ltd, such as a continued unwillingness to use local valuers in compensation cases, as well as the length of time it takes applicants to get compensation, and the fact the schemes are not well enough publicised.
The commissioner also said there had only been ‘limited progress’ in restoring working links to share information with communities, but the thing which stood out more than anything was her assertion that:
“I have also seen the ongoing engagement activity for Phase Two, encompassing local authorities, parish councils, residents’ groups and action groups. This is undertaken on a regular basis, using existing community meetings rather than a bespoke HS2 forum. This approach appears to be working well.”
This statement has gone down like a bucket of sick on Phase 2, where the response to this statement was one which caused more than a little surprise.
At Stop HS2 HQ, we were pretty sure this wasn’t the case, so unlike the Residents’ Commissioner, we thought it might be an idea to actually talk to the residents to see if they thought this was happening. In Staffordshire, Paul KIlbourne responded:
“In a word – NO! We are in Phase 2a. As an Action Group we have had no engagement. Our Parish Council has had no engagement – we communicate openly with the PC. There have been “information” events, with very little information apart from that already in the public domain. I understand that maps were lacking detail, and detailed questions could not be adequately answered.”
Michael Woodhouse added:
“No! At least not in my area. I’m a Parish Councillor and local AG member on the Phase 2a route and neither has been “engaged” so the statement in the Commissioner’s report is definitely not applicable to us!”
In North Warwickshire, the word was:
“That’s a no from us too. We’re on Phase 2b to Leeds. Sounds like the Commissioner is naive (I’ll be kind today!). As an action group we haven’t seen anyone from HS2 Ltd since the last roadshow event during the Phase 2 route “consultation”. As we’re in Warks, which is also impacted by Phase1, HS2 Ltd does talk to our County and Borough Councils. WCC tell us that HS2 Ltd are having one to one meetings with the large businesses around J10 of the M42, who will have to re-locate and/or put up with years of chaos on the M42 and A5.”
The most scathing dismissal of the claim came from Yorkshire, where Jo Mason from Church Fenton said:
“NO IT ISN’T!!!!!!”
“We have NO community engagement. Some people had an email last year saying the route announcement has been deferred until October 2016. That is ALL in over a year. The Community Liaison woman turned up at our Select Committee hearing with 3 colleagues, all of whom neither said nor did anything. They submitted a completely fabricated account of their “engagement” with our community, listing meetings which they attended that were 20 miles away, unadvertised, not advised to anyone in this village, the AG or the PC and told the Select Committee that these were all examples of engagement with our community! It was complete hogwash but we didn’t get chance to go through it item by item and demolish it. Apart from the ‘Road Show’ style ‘information event’ of three years ago and one slip through the letter boxes, HS2 Ltd have not initiated any contact what so ever with our community.”
“All other contact has been requested and hosted by the AG and the PC. When HS2 representatives have come to the village at our insistence, they have had no information to share with us, beyond the HS2 propaganda lifted directly from their literature. The AG has printed and distributed information about all the consultations by its own efforts and at its own expense. Without the efforts of the AG most people would have been totally unaware of the consultations which were not publicised here. Many, many people went to great efforts to provide sensible and detailed responses which, in the case of compensation, have been completely ignored, and in the case of the route, we assume ignored…but we won’t actually know that for another year at least…as the overpaid Mr Higgins can’t get HS2 Ltd’s collective act together to even consider the Phase 2 route.”
“I have tried on several occasions to communicate with the so-called ‘Residents Commissioner’ but have been told that she does not communicate with the public or AGs or PCs, so how would she know what is working well? I presume she means from HS2 Ltd.’s perspective NOT the residents that she is supposed to represent.”
“I recently asked for comments from our group members as to whether I should invite the liaison woman to a meeting. The feeling was that it would be pointless as she had nothing to tell us, so all we would be doing would be providing her with the opportunity to justify her own existence.”
Maybe it is time that the ‘Residents Commissioner’ started talking to actual residents? Just a thought!