PREPARING A BATTLE PLAN FOR HS2
Over the next few months, people from around Bucks will be given the chance to talk to a government committee about the impact of HS2. JACK ABELL spoke to campaigners to find out how preparations are going in the battle to mitigate against the effects of
ACROSS the country, people who are affected by HS2 are being given a unique opportunity. Last year, the government announced the HS2 hybrid bill. If successfully passed, the bill gives permission for work on the first phase of the line, between London and Birmingham, to go ahead.
This would mean the project ploughing through parts of South Bucks and the Chilterns, directly through the area of natural beauty as it makes its way to the Midlands.
However, all hope is not lost.
A select committee made up of MPs from different parties is in the process of scrutinising the bill.
Part of this involves visiting areas along the line to see for themselves what is likely to happen if the line is built, and then listening first-hand to petitioners from councils, action groups and individuals, who will be given the chance to explain their grievances.
Although the process is not about challenging the principle of HS2 or its costs, it is designed to ensure that any changes which the committee deems are necessary are made before it is finally passed and work begins to take place.
The select committee is
I want people to be trained up and ready, so that what they are saying will have the maximum
making its way along the line, moving broadly from north to south, and campaigners are hoping that it will get to Buckinghamshire during the early part of next year.
They will be given four weeks’ notice ahead of their meeting with the committee and will then go along to Westminster.
Because of this, people from around Bucks have been working hard this year to ensure that their petitions are effective, and that they are fully prepared to present to the select committee when they are given the chance to do so.
Yesterday (Wednesday), a summit organised by Bucks County Council as well as district councils was due to be held in Aylesbury, attended by more than 100 people and organisations, which focused on the committee.
People were told about the process which they will go through, and what to expect when they eventually talk to select committee members.
Frank Partridge, chairman of Denham Against HS2, is one of those who is set to go along to Westminster when the opportunity arises, to make the case for his part of South Bucks.
He said: “A lot of the work has already been done, but we will be preparing for it over the coming months.
“We are planning to give people as much advice and training as possible for when they go to the select committee.
“I want people to be trained up and ready, and as prepared as they can be so that what they are saying will have the maximum effect.
“It’s a very important time.
“It’s a chance for us to spell out exactly how we are going to be affected.”
Mr Partridge says that his action group’s main points of argument to the committee will include the prospect of tunnelling under the Colne Valley, sound issues likely to be created by the project, the amount of compensation which people should receive, and a restriction on working times when it is being built.
“We will be taking experts along as well,” he says.
“We want to show that our concerns have real weight behind them and to show that much more mitigation is needed.”
Mr Partridge says that he is hopeful that his group will be given the chance to present to the select committee early next year.
In Amersham, meanwhile, a similar amount of preparation is in place.
Amersham Action Group member Chris Wilson has been in the process of showing a barrister around the area in order to ensure that his group’s case is presented as effectively as possible when the chance arrives.
He says: “It’s still some way off. Denham and the Colne Valley will probably be before us, but it means that we need to be ready, and that is what we’ve been working for.
“It is about making sure that all our bases are covered. In Amersham there are lots of different people and groups, so between us we need to make sure that we are covering everything to show how badly this area is being affected.
“It really is a very important time, so everyone who is going along needs to be ready, and to make sure that they know what to expect when the time comes.”
For a full report of yesterday’s summit, see getbucks.co.uk and also next week’s paper.
SCRUTINY: The HS2 line plan has caused protests across the area since it was first proposed
BE PREPARED: Chairman of Denham Against HS2, Frank Partridge (left) and (above) Amersham Action Group’s Chris Wilson