Last month, we reported that HS2 Ltd had started ripping up hedges they had said they wouldn’t in Fairford Leys, leading to locals blocking access to a site they were conducting ground surveys at.
Since then, they have been caught drilling near Chalfont St Giles, when they originally said they were going to conduct non-intrusive surveys. In this case, when Chiltern District Council were informed what was going on, they put a stop to it.
Now, HS2 Ltd have gone a bit further than either of these instances, deciding to build a compound near West Hyde without planning permission, and in breach of their own ‘Environmental Minimum Requirements’. Subsequently, Three Rivers Council have issued an enforcement notice due to “Unauthorised material change of use of the land from agriculture to construction compound.”
HS2 Ltd have now submitted a retrospective planning application for:
“Temporary change of use of land for three months for use as a ground investigation compound to facilitate off site ground investigation works including provision of five store cabins, seven portable office cabins, one shower room and other minor equipment and alterations to access.”
The application can be found here, with a standard consultation deadline of 2nd December. (There are two later dates published for ‘neighbours’)
The incident has prompted an angry response from the council to the Secretary of State for Transport, in full below.
Dear Mr. Grayling,
HS2 Phase One: Ground Investigation works in the Three Rivers District of Hertfordshire
I am writing formally to notify you of an apparent breach of the controls set out in the bill current before HM Parliament that if enacted would authorise the first phase of the proposed High Speed 2 railway from London to Birmingham.
I am concerned that the promoter has already acted in conflict with the controls placed on it by the documents under the Bill that contain the ‘Environmental Minimum Requirements’, such as the commitment in the Planning Memorandum at section 1 stating that the nominated undertaker (currently the promoter) “will work with qualifying authorities to support the determination of requests for approval, which will include early and constructive engagement, in accordance with obligations set out in this memorandum”.
In this case, planning permission was required but was not sought until after the relevant works had started and the promoter has since submitted a retrospective planning application. The works relate to a large compound sited on green belt agricultural land and caused concern to our local communities because it is also located on the site of a sensitive proposal for mineral extraction that had been refused planning permission on several occasions.
You will be aware that ‘ground investigation’ works started some time ago on various sections of the proposed route. Some works started in the Three Rivers District in August this year. The promoter of the bill, High Speed Two Limited, made Local Authorities aware generally that it intended to carry out ‘ground investigation’ works in early 2015.
This did not happen and the promoter did not provide details of any works in the District to the District Council until August this year, after a large compound had been set up near the village of West Hyde, off the A412 North Orbital Road (Denham Way).
The promoter did not attempt to provide any notification of these specific works or of the fact that a compound was to be installed in the District until after the compound was already in place. It is also not clear that any local residents were made aware of the works until long after they had started.
The promoter did not seek planning permission from the District Council in its capacity as Local Planning Authority. Following a planning enforcement investigation the promoter has since submitted a retrospective planning application for the compound, which is currently being considered. Details can be found at www.threerivers.gov.uk, under planning enforcement, reference 16/0184/COMP.*
It is clear from this event that the controls set out in the Bill, which are intended to protect local people from harm, have not been effective.
I would appreciate your thoughts on the above matter and would be grateful if High Speed Two Limited would in future contact this authority in advance of works taking place.
Director of Community and Environmental Services
*The enforcement cannot be found by searching for that reference number on the council website, but can be found here.