December 2, 2016
Our campaign for a tunnel extension
As you know we have been pushing for a tunnel extension as the simplest solution to all the problems that HS2 causes for the area. The Commons Select Committee rejected the idea on grounds of cost but we managed to persuade the last Secretary of State to set up a working group that included LBH, to review the costs. We were concerned about that process and persuaded the new Secretary of State to have the work looked at independently by one of their non-executive directors. Unfortunately, the end result is the same, as you can see from his letter to me.
As you know we had persuaded HS2 that they needed to invest in relocating HOAC, and so make sure this valuable facility was saved. The process was running smoothly but the Government became very concerned about what they claim to be a doubling in costs. Therefore they decided unexpectedly to revisit the issue of whether a more cost effective option could be worked up on the existing HOAC site, you can see the letter here. As you may have seen in the local press, HOAC threatened to close. Both Boris and I have worked with Hillingdon Council to try and find a solution. The latest is that HS2 will try and make the original Denham plan work for a max budget of £26 million. If they can’t they will try and find an acceptable solution on the existing site for the same amount of money. If that does not work then they will give the money to Hillingdon Council to work up an alternative restoration of amenity in the area. I believe that the preferred HOAC option remains to move to Denham.
House of Lords petitions
Prior to the petition, LBH reached an agreement with HS2, which is being worked up into a legal contract. It builds on previous assurances around capping peak HGV movements at 550 a day (at less than half the original proposal); removal of soil dumps; movement of the power feeder station on edge of South Harefield; new HOAC commitments and restoration of key amenities such as the golf courses. Given where we started, these all represent welcome mitigation, albeit a big compromise on the tunnel extension we all wanted. Hillingdon Council is right to try and secure agreement on these before the HS2 bill gets what is called Royal Assent. However, we all know that there are too much conditionality and unknowns around the agreement for us to trust it completely. This is the point that I made to the Committee when I was called as a witness by Ickenham Residents Association. We need to make sure the HS2 team that will actually deliver the project have a clear obligation to keep working with the Council and residents, to not only deliver on promises made but to improve them. We received assurances that will be the case, not least as congestion is not in the interests of HS2. Rest assured I will be very persistent on the need to have an agreement and an ongoing process we can trust.
Thank you and congratulations to all residents who petitioned the Lords so impressively on behalf of the community. We have been very persistent and have forced change. We will see before the year end how helpful their Lordships are prepared to be on our behalf. I believe they have a good understanding of the problem, not least having visited the area briefly at our invitation.