HS2’s community snub ‘astounding’
Council leaders in disbelief over company’s lack of engagement
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