Council leader to challenge ‘insultingly low’ HS2 offer

An ‘insultingly low’ offer of money to improve communities blighted by HS2 will be challenged by Buckinghamshire County Council at the House of Lords later this month.

On Wednesday the Government announced it had allocated just £15m for its Community and Environment Fund (CEF) – to be split between the five counties of Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire.

The fund is intended to enhance community facilities, improve access to the countryside and protect the environment along the controversial train line’s route.

However, County Council leader, Martin Tett, said as things stand it will have ‘virtually have no impact’ – Buckinghamshire alone already has a list of community projects which total more than £20m.

Martin, who will appear before the Lords’ High Speed Rail Select Committee on October 24, said: “The announcement is terribly disappointing and implies that the Government just hasn’t grasped the sheer scale of the disruption HS2 will cause to people’s lives and businesses in Buckinghamshire.

“HS2 is a £55 billion project which has already spent £2bn even before a single length of track has been laid. The allocation of £15 million in an area in which around two-thirds of the length of phase one will be laid is insultingly low and wholly inadequate.

“When taken in the context of the misery HS2’s construction will cause residentsover a ten year period, this amount really is peanuts. It will have virtually no impact.

“I am also concerned that this fund will be centrally administered – local people are best placed to decide where the money is spent.”

The Lords committee can make powerful recommendations to HS2 Ltd for extra mitigation for affected communities.

Other things Martin will call for include more money towards an Iver relief road, the relocation of the Great Missenden haul road further north, better mitigation for Wendover and a co-ordinated plan to ensure HS2 does not adversely affect the proposed East West rail line in the Calvert area.

A raft of mitigation measures were won for Buckinghamshire after Martin appeared at the House of Commons’ HS2 Select Committee in January.

This included money for mitigation on roads which will be impacted by HS2 construction vehicles, £300,000 towards CCTV cameras to manage traffic in built-up areas, £480,000 for safety measures along the Risborough – Aylesbury and Risborough – Thame roads, £500,000 towards an Aylesbury linear park and a £1m mitigation fund for the Calvert area.