Buckinghamshire Council critical of decision to grant HS2 Notice to Proceed

Buckinghamshire Council has reacted with dismay to news that the government has given the go ahead for HS2 to carry on despite the current national crisis, or considering the economic recovery plan that will have to be put in place to enable the country to get back on its feet, following the coronavirus pandemic.

The granting of the ‘Notice to Proceed’ with construction of Phase 1 of HS2 was announced yesterday by HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson

Councillor Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, said: “The opposition of local councils and communities across Buckinghamshire to this ill-conceived project has been unwavering.

“To give the go ahead to HS2 in the middle of the current global pandemic and without considering the priority and viability of this project in the wider context of a UK economic recovery strategy is difficult to comprehend.

“It would appear that this announcement has been made at an opportunistic and inappropriate time, to avoid proper scrutiny.

“The business case for HS2 was already weakened by the massive increases in the budget from £42.6bn in 2011, to £56.6bn in 2015 and now stands at between £80.7bn-£88.7bn.  And many experts believe it could end up being much higher.

“Local councils in Buckinghamshire have always argued that this money could be better spent – and that case must be even stronger now the country is facing a health and economic crisis.

“Despite a short pause in preparatory construction work in Buckinghamshire, while HS2 Ltd and its contractors reviewed their site procedures to comply with Government advice on working during the coronavirus pandemic, they have now started to recommence certain works in the county.

“However, the council is receiving complaints that operatives on site are not complying with social distancing guidelines, which is concerning and has been brought to the attention of HS2 Ltd.

“It remains our firm belief that all works should be halted at the current time and the project should be reviewed in the context of a national economic recovery plan”.