HS2 Hybrid Bill and Public Meeting
The Department for Transport has now deposited the Hybrid Bill for HS2, the first step in passing the necessary legislation and published the Environment statement for the project. So what happens next?
Firstly the government are consulting for 56 days on the Environmental Statement, closing on the 24th January. So we all have the opportunity to tell them again our views and comment on their proposal. Of course they are not making it easy for us.
1) The full Environmental Statement consists of over 55,000 pages – which means if you want to read it all you must read close to 1000 pages a day.
In reality the section relating to Wendover is much less in size but still a challenge. A good place to start is to look at the summary for Wendover area – Volume 2 CFA 10 Dunsmore, Wendover and Halton – it only runs to 256 pages.
2) The easiest way is to download it from the government website (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hs2-phase-one-environmental-statement-documents), or there is ONE copy in the library so please form an orderly queue. Hard copies are available from the website at a cost. Hardly easily accessible and absolutely not providing fair access to all.
3) Equally important is to look at the powers that the government are taking which will allow them to ride roughshod over any local concerns, buy any land they deem necessary, ignore normal planning rules and law, not have to consult on closing other railway services if it is in the interests of HS2.
We would encourage everyone to respond to the consultation and voice the concerns and issues you have. It is important that the government understand that this project is not acceptable and should be stopped.
Once the consultation is finished an assessor will look at the responses and adjust the proposal so it can then be incorporated into the 2nd reading of the Hybrid Bill. This is the point where our elected Members of Parliament can exercise their rights to discuss, debate and vote on the Hybrid Bill. If the 2nd reading which agrees the principle of the project is passed then it is on its way to becoming law. Of course we expect our MP to represent our interest. Looking at the opinion polls over the 6-12 months, more than 50% opposed HS2, so you may think we should not have a problem. Unfortunately the MP’s will be whipped (you think this is justice) by their parties and given that David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband are all in favour of the HS2 project and will direct their MP’s to vote for it we have an uphill struggle. Still we know a general election is coming!
If the Hybrid Bill is passed at the earliest possible date in mid March, then there is an opportunity for individuals and organisations that are “directly and specially” impacted by HS2 to petition Parliament to address specific issues which require mitigation or correction. The time to lodge petitions is limited – in other Hybrid Bills it has varied from 3 to 6 weeks.
Petitioning requires the completion of a form in a specific manner and a fee of £20 to be delivered to Parliament. A select committee is then convened to hear the petitions. Obviously HS2 Ltd and DfT will attempt to minimise the number of petitions that are actually heard by offering concessions if they feel they can. If your petition is selected to be heard you have the opportunity to address the select committee to make your case. They may not accept it of course and you could be challenged by the government QC, but it is an opportunity to be heard.
We need organisations and individuals to petition, for example for a bored tunnel, or more mitigation. The more petitions submitted, the more likely it is that our demands could be met. The process is not as daunting as it sounds and WHS2 will be co-ordinating the process for Wendover and will support those who wish to make an individual case. Initially a public meeting on 18th January, 2014 at 10am in St Mary’s Church will explain the process and suggest the focus of petitioning for Wendover.
As this is being written I am conscious that we have yet to hear the result of the Supreme Court hearing. Given the urgency in arranging the hearing in record time it was expected that we would have a verdict by middle/end of November. The fact that it has been delayed maybe cause for hope. The delay in issuing a verdict may indicate that it has proved difficult to find a consensus. This could mean that even if the verdict is given in favour of the government they may well refer it to Europe. That would be a great result and if the government continues with HS2 then they will do so at risk of having to undo it all. Let’s hope we get a Christmas present from the Supreme Court.