We have received the following update from the Buckinghamshire County Council HS2 team:
(Note: previous Updates can be found on the Campaigns part of this web site at https://www.amershamsociety.org/topics/hs2/)
The Select Committee have continued to hear from petitioners over the last couple of weeks and are now on recess until 5 January. This update will provide further information on the Select Committee process and timetable; information on Undertakings and Assurances; and an update on the community support we will continue to provide.
Updated Select Committee timetable
The timetable until the 21 January has now been released (available at http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/hs2/Programme/17_12_14_HS2_ProgrammeJanuary.pdf), and this includes a site visit to the Colne Valley on the 15 January. Based on this information, we are now working on producing a separate Select Committee visit itinerary for the Colne Valley area, working alongside South Bucks District Council, London Borough of Hillingdon and other local petitioners. We will be in touch with Parishes and others in the area as soon as possible to help co-ordinate this visit. The timetable also states that after 21 January, the Select Committee will go onto CFA 16 and 15, and CFA 14 (Newton Purcell to Brackley).
Register of Undertakings and Assurances
The first version of Undertakings and Assurances has now been released and can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/high-speed-rail-london-west-midlands-bill-register-of-undertakings-and-assurances. This document sets out all the individual undertakings and assurances given to petitioners and Parliament, and should help ensure these are complied with throughout the project lifecycle. The document can be filtered by geographical area (including route-wide) and subject to make it more usable.
Select Committee process
Over the last couple of weeks the Select Committee has continued to hear from petitioners, including members of the public, parish councils and residential groups. Solihull Borough Council was due to appear on the 9 December. However they decided not to appear and we have since heard that negotiations with HS2 Ltd continued beyond the scheduled appearance date. However they have reserved a position for future appearances on the points they are still discussing.
Oral evidence for all sessions can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/high-speed-rail-london-west-midlands-bill-select-committee-commons/publications/?type=63&session=26&sort=false&inquiry=all and evidence from previous appearances can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cmhs2/cmhs2.htm (this has yet to be updated). The Select Committee are now in recess until the 5 January, when they will resume to hear petitioners in Warwick District, Stratford-on Avon District and Coventry. The timetable for these appearances is not yet available.
Reference to the Chilterns Tunnel
On the 10 December Berkswell Society appeared in front of the Select Committee. They made numerous references to the Chilterns Tunnel, and Mr Mould QC (representing the Department for Transport) was forced to justify why they have tunnelled under parts of the Chilterns. The full transcript can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/hs2/oral-evidence/101214_Uncorrected_Morning.pdf, with reference to the Chilterns tunnel beginning at point 246.
HS2 compensation scheme launch delayed
A compensation scheme for residents affected by HS2 will not be launched until the New Year. People living up to 300 metres away from the line could be entitled to compensation after a consultation was run earlier this year.
Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, had earlier indicated the scheme – to provide compensation to people whose lives would be blighted from living close to the proposed line – would start "by the end of 2014".
Mr McLoughlin said: "Given the busy nature of the Christmas period, with many people away from home visiting family and friends, we want to ensure that residents and communities who may be affected by HS2 do not receive information in a piecemeal way and that everyone is informed at the same time in a clear way. On reflection that can best be achieved in January.
"I am confident that once the schemes are launched, HS2 Ltd and the guidance materials and application forms they have produced will meet these aims and enable the owner-occupiers near the line of the route of HS2 to be well informed and assist them to make the right choices for their circumstances.
"Any delay to applicants will in practice be very small and we consider that the January launch will be more successful in ensuring people are clear as to their entitlements and options."
MPs call for changes to ‘unfair’ tax laws
David Lidington MP, Cheryl Gillan MP and Dominic Grieve MP are among those who have signed a letter demanding reforms to ‘unfair’ tax laws on land which is compulsory purchased for HS2. The letter was sent by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), who represent landowners, farmers and rural businesses. They appeared in front of the Select Committee in November. Further information is available at http://www.bucksherald.co.uk/news/more-news/mps-call-for-change-to-unfair-tax-laws-which-hit-homeowners-affected-by-hs2-1-6469764.
Select Committee call for flexibility in planning policy along the HS2 route
In a similar case to that above, Select Committee Chairman Robert Syms has written to Eric Pickles regarding concerns raised by the National Farmers Union (NFU). This relates to difficulties farmers may face when they have buildings purchased by HS2, and try to build replacement buildings on different parts of their land. In his letter, Mr Syms refers to a farming family in Staffordshire who have faced difficulties building elsewhere on their land due to green belt local planning policy. He calls for flexibility in planning rules along the HS2 route.
HS2AA and Hillingdon Council SEA case
A legal challenge was taken against the government for failing to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on HS2, which has been rejected by the Court of Appeal. The challenge was made by HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) and Hillingdon Council. Further information can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30401740.
As mentioned at the Summit, in the New Year we will be holding a number of drop-in sessions at County Hall, Aylesbury. Within reason, we will be able to help with any queries you have about the scheme and/or petitioning. However, following discussions over the last few months, we anticipate that the following may be useful:
- An opportunity for people to look at/use our hard copy maps
- ICT/PowerPoint tips
- Specific queries on Select Committee appearance or negotiations
- Co-ordination – an opportunity for a few petitioners to get together and discuss a point
We currently have the following dates booked:
- 23 January 13.00 – 16.30
- 27 January 16.00 – 18.30
- 17 February 15.00 – 18.00
Over the next few weeks, please email Sarah at HS2Blueprint@buckscc.gov.uk if you would like to register your interest. Please state what you would like to cover and how much time you think you would like. If these sessions are popular we will look into other dates too.
Preparing for Select Committee local area meetings
Thank you to those who attended our recent local area meetings on preparing for Select Committee appearances. Based on feedback, 66% found these very helpful and 34% found them helpful. The most popular areas where people would like further support are negotiating with HS2 Ltd, preparing for the Select Committee, and further information on local issues. We will try and cover these areas in future community support events.
At the meetings we emphasised the value of photos and imagery when presenting to the Select Committee. On the 8 December, when listening to a petitioner, the Select Committee chairman stated:
‘We like pictures. The sun is always shining in all the pictures we get. We’ve got some lovely pictures from Warwickshire’.
This emphasises the value of using photos and petitioners may want to begin collecting these now.
Bucks Compensation and Mitigation Panel
Those of you who attend these meetings, please can you note that we have cancelled proposed meeting for 7 January 2015, as we will not have met by then with HS2 Ltd. Please note the date of the next meeting after that is Wednesday 4 February 2015.
Buckinghamshire County Council HS2 team:
Jackie Copcutt firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 01296 383793
Alex Day email@example.com Tel: 01296 382409
HS2 Blueprint Mailbox HS2Blueprint@buckscc.gov.uk
BCC HS2 Webpages: http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/environment/hs2/