31 January 2012
Justine Greening's announcement on January 10th of the decision to proceed with the current alignment, albeit with some modifications, is the overriding news of the month.
The decision was disappointing, but hardly surprising and although this battle has been lost, there is a long way to go in this war. So what are the next steps?
- A number of organisations are looking at asking for a Judicial Review. This involves applying to the High Court for permission. This must be done within three months of the challenged decision. The grounds for a review appear to relate to the Consultation being flawed, the Assessment of Sustainability was not carried out in sufficient depth and the requirements of Planning Policy Statement 7 have not been met. The latter relates to developing infrastructure in a National Park or AONB, and requires the Government to review in detail alternative routes that avoid the protected area.
- The Government needs to commission an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This will be a detailed examination, which will take approximately one year to complete. This will need to be consulted on.
- Concurrent with the EIA, more detailed studies will be made to determine the engineering design.
- The completion of the above will lead to the introduction of a hybrid bill. For the Government this has the advantage that it combines aspects of private and public bills, enabling other public legislation to be overridden. The disadvantage is that interested parties have the right to petition against the bill. Their petitions are heard by a standing committee. Interested parties include landowners, local government and charitable organisations. Crossrail took 18 months to clear the standing committee.
About Hybrid Bills (HBs)
HBs currently before Parliament
HBs receiving Royal Assent since 1979 (45KB PDF)
HB contacts in both Houses
As you can see, the above offers a lot of opportunities for delay, changes, etc. At the same time, there is the opportunity to lobby MPs, Ministers, etc. Areas where the Government have weaknesses include the economy, which is not recovering quickly and the lack of a National Transportation Infrastructure Plan.
The latter was demonstrated perfectly by the announcement of support for new runway capacity in the South-East, with proposals for a new airport in the Thames Estuary. This should bring the third runway at Heathrow back into focus. The Government has also announced that a draft aviation policy framework will be published for consultation in March 2012, with a view to formal adoption in March 2013
The DfT also published a set of other documents, related to:
- Blight and compensation
- The Consultation
- Line of Route
The Chiltern Society's initial response is on our website. Alison Doggett, Chairman, questions whether the Government has begun to address the real issues.
The Government also responded to the Transport Select Committee's report on HSR on 23rd January. The tone of the response was fairly dismissive.
The DfT have been promoting working from home, video conferencing, etc., in an initiative led by Norman Baker, Transport Minister. The latest move in this is the creation of a web portal 'Anywhere Working'.
It demonstrates the lack of joined-up thinking at the DfT. Or maybe they do not believe it will work, and therefore the additional capacity created by HS2 is necessary.
February will reveal the Judicial Review challenges. The next step will be to raise funds to finance these.
9 January 2012
An annoucement on the government's plans for HS2 is due tomorrow (Tuesday 10 January) and is expected to confirm the preferred route which will go through the Missenden valley at the widest part of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
There has been extensive media coverage of the issue over the weekend and the Chiltern Society's Chairman, Alison Doggett, was interviewed by ITN, SKY News and the Financial Times.
Please follow the links above to see and read the interviews.
The ITN footage, at time of writing, is via a link "Chiltern Society on high speed rail link developments" on the right hand side of the webpage.
Following are the transcriptions of the two television news interviews.
SKY News interview
This is an area with huge cultural heritage, a unique eco system. We have many rare species all sorts of things are going to be thrown up both in the archaeology and in the natural environment. It's also the aquifer for London.
We are not jubilant as you might imagine, because it does create a precedent of running through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and you can see behind us that this is a glorious valley and a huge viaduct will run right behind my ears. One of the things that we have been really careful about at the Chiltern Society is to make sure that we have provided a balanced, measured, intelligent response to everything that's going on.
High Speed Rail is one solution in this country for better connectivity and we have no problem with high speed rail, but right from the outset, many people, not just people living in the Chilterns and not just people living in the other parts of this line have had huge problems with this particular plan.