VIEW FROM THE HOUSE

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - OPINION -

IN­DE­PEN­DENT mon­i­tor­ing of the HS2 pro­ject and HS2 Ltd is es­sen­tial. I and other MPs whose con­stituen­cies are af­fected have been say­ing this for a long while and the com­mit­tee scru­ti­n­is­ing the pro­ject agree. There have been many break­downs in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in the process for those who need to sell their prop­er­ties. I would still like to see an om­buds­man and scru­ti­n­is­ing body specif­i­cally for the con­struc­tion phase of HS2. An in­ter­nal com­plaints process will just not do.

The first day of Par­lia­ment af­ter the half term Re­cess saw the pub­li­ca­tion of the se­cond spe­cial re­port of the hy­brid bill com­mit­tee con­sid­er­ing the HS2 Bill. It cov­ers two years of work and many vis­its by the com­mit­tee to ar­eas af­fected by the HS2 pro­ject, in­clud­ing the Che­sham & Amer­sham con­stituency.

The com­mit­tee con­sid­ered pe­ti­tions, sev­eral of which I sub­mit­ted on be­half of con­stituents. The sheer scale of the num­bers of pe­ti­tions speaks for it­self: 2,586 pe­ti­tions de­posited against the Bill, of which the com­mit­tee heard nearly 1,600. One ‘gain’ from the com­mit­tee is the area fund set up to safe­guard the Chilterns Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty, sim­i­lar to the one set up for the Colne Val­ley. The fund­ing of up to £3 mil­lion will help, al­though I still want to see 100 per­cent of tun­nelling across the ex­panse of this na­tion­ally-des­ig­nated sen­si­tive land­scape.

There are still fur­ther stages for this bill to go through, so we must al­ways think of the com­mu­ni­ties where this pro­tec­tion has yet to be se­cured.

Our com­mu­ni­ties have done a tremen­dous job in de­fend­ing the Chilterns. The com­mit­tee ac­knowl­edged the way that our lo­cal Coun­cils and cham­pi­ons have worked and they want it to be echoed in the amount of fund­ing avail­able to two funds: the Com­mu­nity and En­vi­ron­men­tal Fund and the Busi­ness and Lo­cal Econ­omy Fund. The bill com­mit­tee is not the only one to be con­sid­er­ing HS2. The Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Con­sti­tu­tional Affairs se­lect com­mit­tee is hold­ing an in­quiry fol­low­ing up on the Par­lia­men­tary and Health Ser­vice Om­buds­man’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into fail­ures of com­mu­ni­ca­tion by HS2 Ltd. The need for im­proved com­mu­ni­ca­tions and en­gage­ment with res­i­dents is one of the key el­e­ments of this in­quiry. I’ll be tak­ing part as a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee…!

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