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/).
House of Lords Select Committee
Buckinghamshire County Council appeared before the Committee on Monday 24 October to present its evidence. The Leader, Martin Tett, was the main witness with Dr Simon Newell appearing on the lack of ecological connectivity from east to west of the line. The council has been offered a further package of assurances which are currently being finalised. We shall then be notifying parish and district councils before accepting these.
Both witnesses did very well but the government gave a robust response. We shall now await the Committee’s final report which will hopefully be released before Royal Assent of the Bill, around December or January. You can watch the appearances at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/1c5c3321-6466-4364-b7b7-e2fc3cf1ccfc.
The latest programme of appearances from 24 October to 15 November is at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/high-speed-rail-london-west-midlands-bill-select-committee-lords/news-parliament-2015/committee-programme-24-oct-3-nov/.
HS2 Independent Design Panel
The Panel Chair, Sadie Morgan, has appointed a vice-chair and deputies. It also has a secretariat and a governance panel and is having its first annual meeting on 22 November. See their update here. It has also taken them 3 months to publish the newsletter.
In addition, the Panel has published a case study for Bridge Design Requirements which you can see here. Apparently, ‘one idea suggested by the panel was that the parapets could be transparent. People naturally want to see through parapets to what is across and below. Although no solution is currently on the market, the challenge from the panel was to explore that option rather than preclude it’.
Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport
Mr Grayling gave an interview to Andrew Marr last Sunday. You can view it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkc0O9z_gqU.
HS2 Community Engagement
Cheryl Gillan MP secured an adjournment debate on 27 October in the House of Commons, on the inadequacy of HS2 Ltd’s engagement to date. She questioned the independence of the Construction Commissioner and the Residents Commissioner and called for a truly independent Adjudicator. Cheryl also talked about the burden being placed on MPs and local authorities who were having to fill the engagement gap created by HS2. Cheryl also talked about their ‘communication calamity’ and the importance of local input. She said you cannot leave engagement to chance and that it takes time and resources.
You can watch the debate at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/972b6c7f-bf64-4800-819d-2fdc0cc0a07c. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones MP, responded. He said he was ‘not here to make excuses for the company’. He recognised that there is a demand for information and that ‘trust was easy to lose and hard to gain’.
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Buckinghamshire County Council HS2 team:
HS2 House of Lords Committee Visit to Buckinghamshire
On the 19 October 2016 Jackie Copcutt from the County Council attended the House of Lords Select Committee to the County. It should be noted that the Council was asked not to share the itinerary before the day. Neil Cowie from HS2 Ltd was the speaker for the visit.
Waddesdon and Quainton
The visit began at Aylesbury Vale Parkway before moving to Waddesdon Grand Lodge then right to Blackgrove Road. Then into Quainton and left into Station Road (which will be realigned). Neil mentioned assurances provided to the National Trust re Waddesdon Manor (who are no longer petitioning) but did mention David Vick, local Parish Councillor, who is personally affected.
Lord Young was very excited to see a Red Kite in this area. Jackie told him he would probably see another before the end of the visit (and they did in Colne Valley).
To be fair, Neil Cowie stated that Waddesdon Manor is well worth a visit with Lord Rothschild mentioned as the owner.
Aylesbury and Stoke Mandeville
Neil said there is no construction traffic through Aylesbury. Neil discussed the Stoke Mandeville bypass and the fact that BCC is looking to have this extended across to the A413 to ensure minimal impact on the Aylesbury Gyratory.
There was then a discussion about whether there would be slab or ballast track. Ballast is cheaper but requires regular maintenance. Slab requires less maintenance. Neil confirmed that no decision has yet been taken on this.
Lord Young asked what a noise barrier looks like. Neil replied it depends on the detailed design. Colour appearance can be changed, they could be topped with Perspex although this not noise absorbent. Noise barriers in Wendover are 6m high along the train line.
The Stoke Mandeville maintenance loop was mentioned as being 1km in length and near the Goat Centre. Neil maintained their businesses would not be affected and that signage could be provided so that they did not miss out on passing trade. More planting mentioned for National Trust to mitigate views from Coombe Hill.
Stoke House was mentioned and Neil said more planting was being provided.
Jackie pointed out the several trees which would be lost to the scheme with ‘knitted scarves’ that locals drew attention to.
The school, church and cricket ground were mentioned here. Rupert Thornley Taylor (HS2 noise expert) will say ‘noise is not a problem here’. In Wendover, Lord Young spotted the ‘unmitigated disaster’ sign with the mock-up of the noise barrier and took photos.
HS2 Ltd think that their hydrology investigations in Wendover are fine, although admit there is more work to do. Initial findings show less impact than reported by parish Council. Lord Young asked about integrity of consultants. Neil stated they were the best in the country. HS2 said £250k has been offered to church for noise mitigation but they are not content with that offer. The route drove past the church and Wendover House Special School. HS2 Ltd has offered the school secondary glazing, better air ducting and carpeting certain classrooms. HS2 Ltd also took the Headteacher to the Sound Lab.
The Wendover Cricket Club was mentioned and Neil said it was being relocated to Halton. We stood on the bridge over the Wendover bypass and they commented how noisy the road is. Jackie explained about the offer to us for noise barriers and also said we had not accepted them because there was a trade-off of noise against landscape impacts.
We stopped in the lay by opposite London Road residents and Neil explained about the viaducts and piers. Jackie mentioned Rocky Lane is planned to be used for 50% of the spoil and Neil mentioned possibly using the trace.
Jackie asked Neil to say that we were entering the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The bus then stopped at Link Road roundabout and Neil said there was not enough time to relocate the haul road. He said ‘we think we have the right solution’.
The next stop was at Potter Row and where the Lords walked through Jenkins Wood to the site of the north portal. The Baroness asked whether it would be fenced and Neil replied it would have security fencing.
Neil said the 2.6 km extension to the tunnel had cost £47m. He said there was little further environmental gain to be had by any further extension, say to Leather Lane. The boring rates were discussed and HS2 maintain it is 80m per week on average. Neil said they shot down evidence from petitioners who said it is actually quicker than that.
We drove past Annie Baileys and Neil said HS2 Ltd does not own it. He said ‘it is looking quite tidy’ which Jackie disagreed with and explained that the owners had moved out because of HS2.
Neil pointed out the River Misbourne chalk stream and how some petitioners were concerned about dewatering through tunnelling and he also pointed out Shardeloes and the lake. Neil said some people wanted it ‘concreted over’ and Jackie explained it was rather they wanted it lined.
Amersham Vent Shaft
Neil pointed out the area for the Amersham vent shaft and Jackie mentioned the receptors of the hospital and crematorium. The Lords amusingly said they would not be getting any complaints from there!
Neil explained about the Chalfont St Peter and Chalfont St Giles vent shafts and concerns about construction routes eg going past schools. He explained HS2 Ltd has given an assurance about safety works to schools. We drove along West Hyde Lane.
The Lords made comments about how attractive the countryside is and ‘very English’.
We stood on the bridge over the M25 to view the site of the south portal. Neil explained about the slip roads which would be built and that there would be security stopping anything other than HS2 traffic from using. The Lords expressed surprise that HS2 have been allowed to build them by Highways England. Denham Park Farm Quarry was pointed out and Neil said this might provide a solution to some of the spoil problems. Neil said the land where the portal is would be returned to agriculture after the compounds etc are all removed. We looked down to Broadwater Lake and Neil explained its SSSI status and pointed out where the viaduct would cross.
We visited HOAC and Neil Cowie hinted that the business case for its relocation might not be approved (the letter confirming this arrived today). Neil was asked by Lord Young what HOAC’s options were if they were not relocated. As well say as saying they could close, he also said they could continue to operate but on a reduced scale. He emphasised (on the bus and at the lake) that if they were not relocated and continued to operate, they would do so on a very different basis from their current operation. The Lords asked Neil Maddock whether he thought they could continue on their current site and he very clearly said no, because of the viaduct. Neil Cowie said they might be able to acquire a bit more land to extend their current site. The Lords asked if HOAC thought they could operate during construction. Neil Maddock said they would be very restricted and then there is the noise.
The trip continued into Hillingdon.