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Marathon HS2 select committee hearings end with key Birmingham proposals

Marathon HS2 select committee hearings end with key Birmingham proposals

🕔23.Feb 2016

After almost two years and 160 days of sittings, the Commons select committee set up to consider the proposed high speed rail link between London and Birmingham has published its final report.

One of the key recommendations is to maximise local job opportunities at Washwood Heath on the former Alstom/LDV site where the HS2 company plans to build a maintenance depot.

MPs agreed with concerns raised by Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne that too much land had been reserved for the depot, which will not be in use until 2026, and that far more of the huge vacant site should be used to create thousands of manufacturing jobs.

Following a review ordered by the select committee, HS2 Ltd and the landowners have agreed a compromise. The depot will take up almost a third less land than originally envisaged and the size of the site remaining for redevelopment is 50 per cent larger.

The committee said it its report:

Washwood Heath is in an area of high unemployment. Although the maintenance depot will create jobs, Liam Byrne MP persuaded us that its potential for additional regeneration needed more recognition.

We directed a review to minimise the temporary and permanent use of land by the Promoter, and to maximise opportunities for employers to establish themselves as soon as possible after construction. Mr Byrne was instrumental in pushing the review forward.

The area potentially to be handed back after construction is 50 per cent greater than in the Bill scheme. Mr Byrne told us that, as a result, up to 3,000 jobs, rather than 300, stand to be created.

We reiterate our general view that both the permanent and temporary land take should be the minimum as far as possible and for the shortest time, with a hand-back configuration that after construction will attract maximum business use of the residual site.

MPs also welcomed an assurance by HS2 Ltd that Birmingham city council will have full involvement in “station design, good station permeability, cooperation on relocating displaced businesses within Birmingham where possible, and provision of local apprenticeships”.

A strategy has been agreed to mitigate the impact of HS2’s requirement for temporary closure of Saltley viaduct and it has been agreed there will be “convenient access between the Curzon Street station and Birmingham New Street station”.

The committee heard almost 1,600 petitions against the HS2 Bill.

Its full report can be seen here.

Recommendations include:

  • The line to pass under A38 near Streethay, north of Lichfield, rather than over the road
  • HS2 Ltd to pay £3.5 million to move Water Orton primary school.
  • Upgrading junction 6 of the M42 in preparation for the NEC/Airport interchange station.
  • A £10 million contribution from HS2 Ltd to extend and improve a viaduct at Henley-in-Arden.
  • A longer bored tunnel through the Chiltern Hills.
  • Greater noise protection for Wendover, in Buckinghamshire.
  • Better construction arrangements in Hillingdon.

The select committee’s recommendations will go to a Public Bill Committee of the House of Commons for consideration. The Bill’s Report Stage and Third Reading will follow.

The Department for Transport is expected to respond to the committee’s report. At least seven days before the Bill’s Third Reading the Department will lay before the House a statement of the main reasons why Parliament will be invited to consent to the Bill and the main measures to mitigate adverse effects.

If passed by the House of Commons, the Bill will go to the House of Lords.

Robert Syms, chair of the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill Select Committee, said:

With this report on Phase One of the High Speed Rail programme, we have endeavoured to add substantial environmental, social and design benefits to the scheme, in balance with good use of public money and a viable engineering design.

Robert Goodwill, Minister of State at the Department for Transport, said:

I welcome the report today from the Select Committee and would like to thank members for their significant time and efforts over the course of the hearings. We will consider carefully the recommendations in the report and respond shortly. I also recognise the demands this process has placed on petitioners. We have listened to those affected by the scheme and in many cases we have been able to make the changes they have been calling for. I am happy to say that HS2 remains firmly on schedule, and today’s report marks another significant step towards getting spades in the ground for this transformational project.

The committee’s report did not impress opponents of high speed rail. Joe Rukin, campaign manager of Stop HS2, said:

 

Two years ago, we had great hopes that the HS2 Committee would see how badly planned HS2 has been and make significant changes. However, after almost two years, next to nothing has been demanded by the committee, and those changes which have been made are minor.

In their summing up almost two years of sittings, the committee mentioned just five places where they have asked for improvements to the design and construction of HS2, as well as asking for the compensation scheme to work better.

The way petitioning has operated has meant that some local authorities and large landowners, who could afford barristers have got limited concessions, but the general public and environmental organisations have largely been ignored, as they have been for the last six years.

We are incredibly disappointed that the feelings of communities along the route of HS2 have largely been ignored, as HS2 has been railroaded through. We can only hope the House of Lords take our concerns more seriously when petitioning there starts in a couple of months.

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