HS2 – What Happens Next ?

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By Guest Author Joe

It’s almost two years since the original announcement of HS2, and whilst the arguments for progressing with this gargantuan white elephant keep getting weaker, both the campaign and opinion against it keep getting stronger.

It came as no surprise that Justine Greening, despite saying she was going to take ‘great care’ before deciding on whether or not to go with HS2, announced she was going to proceed with the EU-demanded vanity project, in January, just a couple of weeks after Philip Hammond had been due to.  To highlight the difference between the blind spin from Government and the truth of the matter, we’ve produced a video of ‘What the Transport Secretary didn’t say’. It would be great if you can share and forward to people who don’t really know a great deal about HS2. It can be found via this link – http://youtu.be/OiudCN-SzNU

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

When she announced her pre-determined decision to go ahead with HS2,  Justine Greening was really committing to was blowing a billion pounds of your taxes on consultants this parliament. This has happened purely on her nod, there won’t actually be a vote in Parliament about this for at least another two years.

It won’t come as a surprise that ARUP, following their complete ineptitude in drawing up three sets of error-strewn plans for HS2, along with the more successful policy of chucking money at various chambers of commerce who have lobbied for HS2, have already been awarded a £7m contract to provide ‘environmental services’ and are in the running for two more contracts.

So now we are at the stage for ‘engagement on environmental issues’, meaning environmental surveys, which legally should have taken place before a decision to proceed, are about to take place.

Affected landowners – which includes people with a back garden backing onto a railway line, as well as farmers – are being offered £1,000 to allow surveyors onto their land.  The packs are very daunting looking and (incorrectly) imply that people have to allow access to HS2 Ltd and their contractors.  Those affected do not have to allow  this, as HS2 Ltd have no legal right of access at the moment.

After consulting with the appropriate people, which may include your affected neighbours, you may decide to grant HS2 Ltd access.  If so, if ask them to make the cheque out to ‘Stop HS2’, that would be nice!

Alongside the environmental surveys, this spring there will be a third consultation on compensation and HS2 Ltd will send their options on the routes to Leeds and Manchester to Government. There will be a consultation on the ‘safeguarding zone’ too, but that won’t be with the public, just ‘statutory bodies’.

While that is happening, there will be environmental forums, planning forums and community forums. If you believe you or your group should be involved in the local community forum (the public have no rights whatsoever to the other two), please email sally.fulcher@hs2.gsi.gov.uk,

According to HS2 Ltd presentations a new ‘blight zone’ will be in place (whatever that means) by autumn and land will be safeguarded, meaning no other planning applications can be made. We will also find out what the preferred routes going to Leeds & Manchester are, but these will not be consulted on until 2014.

The HS2 plan is that by this time next year we will have the public consultation on the environmental analysis for the London-Birmingham/Lichfield route. The hybrid bill will arrive in parliament on the very specific date of 25th October 2013, we are told, where it is expected there will be over a year of parliamentary process before it is voted on, which will be close to the 2015 general election.

HOWEVER, As you might have read in the press, there is going to be a legal challenge, a Judicial Review. In fact, there are going to be a couple of them. The 51m group, a coalition of 18 local councils, including two councils which aren’t even on the route of HS2 have come together and will be challenging the validity of the consultation process. A coalition of action groups and environmental organisations are challenging the environmental case thus far. If you have any information which you believe may be relevant to these legal challenges, please send it on tochallenge@stophs2.org

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