HS2’s com­mu­nity snub ‘as­tound­ing’

Coun­cil lead­ers in dis­be­lief over com­pany’s lack of en­gage­ment

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Debby Thompson debby.thompson@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

LEAD­ERS of the five Buck­ing­hamshire coun­cils have writ­ten to HS2’s chief ex­ec­u­tive ex­press­ing dis­be­lief the com­pany has no plans to hold any com­mu­nity en­gage­ment events in the county.

They fired off their let­ter af­ter learn­ing no com­mu­nity events were planned for Buck­ing­hamshire, de­spite plans for four pi­lot com­mu­nity events in and around Birm­ing­ham and another two for the Eus­ton area be­fore Christ­mas.

Signed by the lead­ers of South Bucks, Chiltern, Ayles­bury Vale and Wy­combe dis­trict coun­cils and Buck­ing­hamshire County Coun­cil, the let­ter to HS2 ac­cuses the com­pany of be­ing se­lec­tive and said the lack of en­gage­ment was un­ac­cept­able.

The let­ter states: “On be­half of our lo­cal res­i­dents we are as­tounded that HS2 has no plans to hold com­mu­nity en­gage­ment events of any de­scrip­tion in Buck­ing­hamshire, de­spite the fact that [re­port] Ad­di­tional Pro­vi­sion 4 is due to be pub­lished next month and will re­sult in sig­nif­i­cant changes for many parts of Buck­ing­hamshire. “This is just not ac­cept­able. “Our com­mu­ni­ties are some of the worst af­fected by this rail line and the very least they de­serve is the op­por­tu­nity to see what is com­ing their way.

“This con­tin­ues HS2 Lim­ited’s track record of se­lec­tive com­mu­nity en­gage­ment where although it ini­tially set up com­mu­nity fo­rum meet­ings – at least to in­form and en­gage – once all their ‘boxes’ were ticked they with­drew, and fast.

“In­deed, for the past year HS2 Lim­ited has failed to en­gage with our com­mu­ni­ties on what its plans are – what is chang­ing and how many hun­dreds of lor­ries will be un­leashed on the county’s roads. This is in marked con­trast to Bucks County and Chiltern Dis­trict coun­cils’ sup­port for res­i­dents through some 40-plus en­gage­ment events in the past year.”

Anti-HS2 cam­paigner Stan Ma­son, who last week urged res­i­dents to con­tinue the fight to bury HS2, said: “Bucks and Chiltern coun­cils have helped me un­der­stand the re­al­ity of what HS2 is plan­ning, but lo­cal coun­cils shouldn’t have to spend coun­cil tax pay­ers money to do the job which, for five years, HS2 has failed to do.

“I hope this isn’t a fore­taste of the dis­re­gard HS2 has for res­i­dents and what we can ex­pect for the next 10 years dur­ing con­struc­tion, should the pro­posal go ahead.”

The HS2 Ltd com­mu­nity en­gage­ment team has said it will de­cide if events are war­ranted in Buck­ing­hamshire af­ter the pilots are re­viewed.

Coun­cils were also told at a meet­ing with HS2 Ltd last week that even if events do take place in Buck­ing­hamshire these will not cover all of the orig­i­nal com­mu­nity fo­rum ar­eas.

‘Think of HS2 as a tube line’

HS2 SHOULD be thought of as a ‘tube line’, ac­cord­ing to Che­sham and Amer­sham MP Ch­eryl Gil­lan.

Speak­ing at a de­bate in Par­lia­ment last week, Mrs Gil­lan also said she hoped a de­ci­sion on a long tun­nel through­out the whole of the Chilterns, de­scribed as the ‘only way to ad­e­quately pro­tect the area’ would not be made un­til all of the pe­ti­tions had been heard.

The MP par­tic­i­pated in the de­bate on the HS2 mo­tion to in­tro­duce Ad­di­tional Pro­vi­sions 3 and 4 to the House of Com­mons. Ad­di­tional Pro­vi­sion 4 (AP4) con­tains the pro­vi­sion, known as the C6 op­tion, to ex­tend tun­nelling through the Chilterns to the South Heath green tun­nel north por­tal.

In Par­lia­ment Mrs Gil­lan said: “While of course I am pleased that the com­mit­tee has pro­posed this ad­di­tional mit­i­ga­tion, we must not for­get that a large swathe of the area of out­stand­ing nat­u­ral beauty re­mains ex­posed to the rail­way it­self.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the rec­om­men­da­tion of C6 still falls short of what is re­quired to pro­tect the area fully from the se­vere im­pacts of this pro­ject.

“A long, con­tin­u­ous, fully bored tun­nel through­out the en­tire AONB is re­ally the only way ad­e­quately to pro­tect our nat­u­ral coun­try­side and com­mu­ni­ties.

“I urge the Com­mit­tee, and the Min­is­ter and his of­fi­cials, to con­tinue to look at the long tun­nelling pro­pos­als.

“In­deed, I was hop­ing that I could en­cour­age the Min­is­ter and his of­fi­cials to think of this less as a rail­way in my con­stituency and more of a tube line, and con­tinue the tun­nelling to the end of the AONB.”

She added: “I hope that any fi­nal de­ci­sion on a long tun­nel in the Chilterns will not take place un­til af­ter AP4 has been con­sulted on and all Chilterns pe­ti­tions heard, so that the Com­mit­tee will then be in pos­ses­sion of all the ar­gu­ments for and against the rec­om­men­da­tion as it stands.”

Speak­ing af­ter­wards she said: “I am very grate­ful to the HS2 Se­lect Com­mit­tee for rec­om­mend­ing fur­ther tun­nelling in the Chilterns, which will pro­vide cru­cial en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, specif­i­cally to our an­cient woodlands.

“I do hope, how­ever, that the com­mit­tee will con­tinue to lis­ten to the case for a long con­tin­u­ous tun­nel through­out the Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty, which, in my view, is the only way to ad­e­quately pro­tect the area. I also hope that AP4 will pro­vide ex­tra pro­tec­tion for Shard­e­loes Park and a more suit­able re­aligned foot­path near Pot­ter Row.

“I look for­ward to re­ceiv­ing these de­tails in due course and re­spond­ing to the con­sul­ta­tion when it opens in mid-Oc­to­ber.”

‘NOT AC­CEPT­ABLE’: Coun­cil lead­ers are fum­ing HS2 has not planned any com­mu­nity events and inset, cam­paigner Stan Ma­son

DE­BATE: MP Ch­eryl Gil­lan

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