‘We need it now more than ever’

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by Tom Her­bert tom.her­bert@trin­i­tymir­ Twit­ter: @TRHer­bert

THE TRANS­PORT Sec­re­tary is press­ing for­ward with HS2 plans, say­ing we need it ‘now more than ever’.

Chris Grayling has also con­firmed his com­mit­ment to the project by an­nounc­ing £70 mil­lion worth of fund­ing to sup­port lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and road safety along the route.

He said: “We need HS2 now more than ever. We’re fac­ing a rapidly ap­proach­ing crunch-point.

“In the last 20 years alone, the num­ber of peo­ple trav­el­ling on our rail­ways has more than dou­bled and our rail net­work is the most in­ten­sively used of any in Europe.

“We need it for the boost it will give to our re­gional and na­tional economies. And we need it for the jobs it will cre­ate, and for the way it will link our coun­try to­gether.”

But the news has been met with crit­i­cism – and the multi-mil­lion pound money pot is rou­tinely dis­missed by crit­ics who ar­gue it is not enough.

Joe Rukin of Stop HS2 said: “If it was a nor­mal build­ing project un­der nor­mal rules you would have to spend far more than this.”

Call­ing the an­nounce­ment ‘de­ceit­ful’ he ar­gued that £30 mil­lion had al­ready been an­nounced and said the money only amounts to around half a mil­lion pounds per mile.

He said: “In­stead of fund­ing go­ing di­rectly to au­thor­i­ties you’re go­ing to have com­mit­tees up and down the line bid­ding for a pot of money which is far too small.”

And added: “It’s re­ally sad that a sec­re­tary of state has come in and is not lis­ten­ing to any of the ar­gu­ments, and has come up with the idea that its go­ing to be a good thing against all the ev­i­dence.

“He’s not pay­ing the slight­est bit of at­ten­tion to any of the well founded crit­i­cisms of the project.”

Chiltern District Coun­cil­lor Seb Berry, who rep­re­sents Great Mis­senden, said: “In terms of the im­pact, it’s al­most in­cal­cu­la­ble – the ef­fect on peo­ples’ health, dam­age to lo­cal busi­ness and loss of vis­i­tor num­bers.

“The money will in no way make up for the en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion of the Great Mis­senden area.

“I’m very an­gry with what’s hap­pened this year.”

THE LEADER of Bucks County Coun­cil has slammed an ‘in­sult­ingly low’ cash of­fer to im­prove com­mu­ni­ties blighted by HS2 as ‘peanuts’.

Martin Tett has lashed out at the Gov­ern­ment for its £15 mil­lion Com­mu­nity and En­vi­ron­ment Fund (CEF), say­ing it will have ‘vir­tu­ally no im­pact’.

He is set to chal­lenge the of­fer when he ap­pears be­fore the Lords’ High Speed Rail Select Com­mit­tee on Oc­to­ber 24.

On Wed­nes­day the Gov­ern­ment an­nounced it had al­lo­cated £15m the CEF to be split between Bucks, Stafford­shire, War­wick­shire, Ox­ford­shire and Northamp­ton­shire.

The fund is in­tended to en­hance com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties, im­prove ac­cess to the coun­try­side and pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment along the con­tro­ver­sial train line’s route.

Mr Tett said: “The an­nounce­ment is ter­ri­bly dis­ap­point­ing and im­plies that the Gov­ern­ment just hasn’t grasped the sheer scale of the dis­rup­tion HS2 will cause to peo­ple’s lives and busi­nesses in Buck­ing­hamshire.

“HS2 is a £55 bil­lion project which has al­ready spent £2bn even be­fore a sin­gle length of track has been laid.

“The al­lo­ca­tion of £15 mil­lion in an area in which around twothirds of the length of phase one will be laid is in­sult­ingly low and wholly in­ad­e­quate.

“When taken in the con­text of the mis­ery HS2’s con­struc­tion will cause res­i­dents over a 10 year pe­riod, this amount re­ally is peanuts. It will have vir­tu­ally no im­pact.

“I am also con­cerned that this fund will be cen­trally ad­min­is­tered – lo­cal peo­ple are best placed to de­cide where the money is spent.”

The Lords com­mit­tee can make rec­om­men­da­tions to HS2 Ltd for ex­tra mit­i­ga­tion for af­fected com­mu­ni­ties.

Mr Tett will also call for more money to­wards an Iver re­lief road, the re­lo­ca­tion of the Great Mis­senden haul road fur­ther north, bet­ter mit­i­ga­tion for Wen­dover and a co-or­di­nated plan to en­sure HS2 does not ad­versely af­fect the pro­posed East West rail line in the Calvert area.

Mr Tett ap­peared at the House of Com­mons’ HS2 Select Com­mit­tee in Jan­uary and won a raft of mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures for the county.

Un­der threat: Den­ham Lock Wood (main im­age), Spring­well Lake in the Colne Val­ley Park and Man­tles Wood in the Chilterns (be­low left and right) could face dam­age from the HS2 project

On its way?: The Gov­ern­ment has re­asserted its com­mit­ment to HS2

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