Published 31st August 2012
LONDON - The Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening announced that HS2 was to be built, initially between London and the West Midlands and in a second phase, to Manchester and Leeds. The company set up to manage the project, HS2 Ltd, has now advertised and filled some of the top team’s jobs including Doug Oakervee CBE as Chairman.
He reports that in his first six months as Chairman of HS2 Ltd, he has seen at first hand the commitment of the HS2 team in tackling this challenging project. He says that achieving a result that fairly balances the wider economic needs of the country as a whole with the local and very understandable concerns of communities along the railway's route is vital.
He also writes that: “We at HS2 Ltd are all committed to ensuring that the design process takes full account of how different areas will be affected by the proposed line of route.”
Updates designed at keeping everyone informed about progress and activities currently under way combined with an outline of what will be happening next will be regularly published. The Chairman writes that whilst he is personally enthusiastic about the tremendous potential that HS2 can offer to many people across the UK, he is determined to ensure that we are as clear as possible about both benefits and impacts of the project.
Justine Greening made a visit to HS1 in Kent on August 28 to see what, if any disruption still takes place after a nearly a decade of operation. She met people who were affected by the construction and who thought they would continue to be affected by the high speed train operation with noise and vibration issues in particular.
She went to Hollingbourne and stood on top of a cut and cover tunnel, then to see noise barriers at Ashford and Ebbsfleet. Locals are now reported as saying that the disruption is a thing of the past.
Reports suggest that the long term effects are much less than originally feared and that nature is rapidly reclaiming the lineside with the construction scars vanished.
Ms. Greening made statement to Parliament was made on July 12 saying that consultation on the property and compensation package for HS2 will take place after Parliament returns from its summer recess in September along with the planned safeguarding consultation.
I am acutely aware of the impact that the proposals for HS2 are having on the property markets along the line of route from London to the West Midlands. The impacts on property are some of the most direct and personal effects of HS2. This is why we have committed to going above and beyond the statutory requirements for property compensation.
Developing the right property compensation package needs to be fair to those living and working along the HS2 route, while recognising our broader responsibility to the taxpayer. The responses to the consultation made clear that property compensation was an issue of considerable and understandable concern.
In addition, from personally dealing with the casework from the operation of the existing Exceptional Hardship Scheme, I recognise the range and complexity of issues involved meaning it is imperative to put in place the right package.
Ms. Greening also said she was keen to consult as soon as possible to offer some certainty but, given the issues and implications for Phase 2 and work to assess stations and route options, it is clear to me that the detailed work needed to fully assess options means that consultation on the property and compensation package will take place after the summer recess in September.
I understand that this delay will not be welcomed by individuals and businesses who had hoped to see an earlier resolution to the uncertainty surrounding HS2 property and compensation policies she continued.
However, this will enable the Government to put forward a comprehensive, practical and affordable package of property and compensation measures. The Transport Secretary will be writing to those likely to be most directly affected by the project to explain this change.
Alison Munro has been re-appointed as the Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd, continuing her tenure commenced when the company started in 2009. Her team has planned, structured and managed the complex mixture of tasks to develop the high speed rail proposals. She will now lead the company through the hybrid bill process to Royal Assent for the first stage of the line whilst also leading work to decide the routes linking to Manchester, Leeds and Heathrow.
HS2 surveyors are now working on identifying all the people and organisations with a legal interest in land and property affected by the HS2 route. This process combines desktop research and site visits is called land referencing. Once initial enquiries are completed, land interest questionnaires will be sent to the property owners, incorporating all details established in the research for checking.
Where ownership cannot be determined, legal notices will be put up on site and neighbours asked for information.
This year studies of seasonal wildlife habitats in some areas along the route have been made involving the great crested newt, reptiles and wintering birds. These visits have been facilitated with agreement of landowners and forms part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which provides an overall view of the effects the project is likely to have on the environment. These in turn will shape proposals to avoid or minimise them.
The scope and methodology for the EIA plus a report on the outcome of this is expected soon. The findings of the EIA will be used to prepare a draft Environmental Statement for public consultation next spring 2013 and will set out in detail any significant effects of the high speed rail line, in subject areas including:
• Biodiversity, water resources, geology and visual impact
• Archaeology and historic sites
• Townscapes, traffic and other transport, waste and resources
• Noise, air quality, community, property and agriculture.
HS2 engineers (Wearing suitable identification) are also carrying out surveys and site visits to develop a detailed understanding of the route along assessing ground conditions, geology, utility corridors and drainage, which will feed into the design work for the line. All the surveyors carry HS2 identification.
As well as ground level surveys, HS2 is undertaking aerial surveys to obtain true to scale vertical imagery along the route to be used to create detailed maps at a scale of 1:500. Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) measurements have been made usied to create ground shape and elevation models showing heights of structures, vegetation etc. These surveysd were due to be complete by the end of August.
HS2 is also meeting local authority planning officers and other organisations to discuss the development of designs for the route, study the local effect of the line on the environment and look at ways to reduce this where possible, for example through noise barriers. These meetings will be used to fine-tune details of what the line will look like, looking at the specific constraints and impacts including during construction. Details of the six planning forums which meet bi-monthly can be found here.
The second round of community forum meetings took place in June and July. There are 26 forums along the route, with members representing local councils, action groups, heritage organisations, other groups and residents as well as HS2 Ltd. These are a key way for everyone to discuss issues, seek clarification and agree a consensus. And the next round is scheduled for the autumn. Details can be found here.