Saturday, December 2, 2023

HS2 Gives Too Little Time to Councils and Public To Read Plans

Council leaders have slammed a decision which left the public with just 10 weeks to read through eleven THOUSAND pages of documents if they wanted to comment on HS2 plans.

At a meeting of Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet, Conservative councillors raised concerns about the “inadequacy” of HS2’s information, which they felt was rife with incorrect details.  Councillors  also felt that asking members of the public to read through so much complex information in such a short time was not possible.

HS2 Ltd, a company wholly owned by central government, seeks to build a high-speed rail line costing potentially hundreds of billions of pounds.  The firm had until recently been consulting on Phase 2b of its proposals, which would pass from Birmingham through Long Eaton to a new East Midlands Hub at Toton.

At the meeting, Cllr Carol Hart, who is a cabinet member and also leader of Erewash Borough Council said: “What I will say again today and what Erewash Borough Council agreed recently is that the current proposals are totally unacceptable.
“They are even alienating people who are for it.”
Cllr Hart also commented that the task given to the council, to assess 11,000 pages in 10 weeks, was “ridiculous”.

Meanwhile, deputy leader Cllr Simon Spencer, said the council’s response to HS2, giving its views on the Phase 2b consultation, “highlighted the inadequacy of the overall process”.
He said: “It is a controversial project and this is exacerbated by factually inaccurate information.
“HS2 needs to take this seriously, because we don’t want to proceed with the process of appealing the facts [of the project] as it passes through Parliament.”
Cllr Spencer, the cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure and joint chair of the East Midlands HS2 Mitigation Board, said that what was a tough task for council officers, to read through all of the HS2 documentation, would not be possible for members of the public.

In the county council’s response to HS2 it states: “The complexity, format and vast number of technical documents has made assessment difficult and means engagement by members of the public is almost impossible.”

Council leader, Cllr Barry Lewis, said: “If HS2 want public goodwill to remain being there, it needs to start listening.
In its response, the authority raises concerns over the “lack” of information regarding economic and traffic impacts.
It states that the lack of an economic impact assessment is “a significant omission”.

The report continues: “It is imperative that Derbyshire is perceived, and remains ‘open for business’ during the construction period and that all efforts are made to mitigate the disruption for community and businesses and the key economic sectors.”
It adds: “There are likely to be significant economic impacts from the proposed re-alignment of the M1 in Derbyshire (delay, congestion, disruption) and also from construction traffic on the strategic and local highway network.
“This impact will be felt by visitors, commuters, businesses and communities and needs to be fully addressed.”

It raises concerns over “the apparent preference given to choosing the lowest cost development options at certain locations along the route, rather than those which may have a greater effect in mitigating the impact on the surrounding area”.  For example, the 23-metre high viaduct through Long Eaton is thought to be a third (£275 million) of the cost of a tunnel (£964 million) under the town, but would see 183 homes and more than 50 businesses demolished.

Eddie Bisknell (LDRS)

Eddie writes for Nailed through the Local Democracy Reporting Service, in partnership with the BBC. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a partnership of media outlets sharing reporters to cover council meetings.

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