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.
December 2, 2016
New Government pressing on with HS2
The new Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, has confirmed that the Government intends to press ahead with HS2.
Proposed Heathrow spur is dead
The original HS2 proposal contained a link to Heathrow Airport, which would have created even more damage and blight in the area. I campaigned with local MPs against this so-called “spur” as there was no business case for it. We won the argument; however, the government were minded to keep an option open. However, I am pleased to confirm that the Transport Minister, Andrew Jones, wrote to me over the summer to confirm that they no longer intended to make “passive provision” for the link. You can see the letter here. So the Heathrow Spur is dead.
HOAC relocation approaching a decision
It took time but we persuaded HS2 that HOAC could not survive on the current site if HS2 went ahead. This would have been a huge loss to the thousands of young people who get so much out what is a very special facility. HS2 committed to finding and funding a relocation option, and a planning application has gone in for development of a site in Denham, which the management team are comfortable with. Decisions are expected by the end of October.
HS2 continue to oppose tunnel extension
For many years, we have made the argument that the simplest answer to all the local problems generated by HS2 is to extend the proposed tunnel. HS2 are dead against that option and managed to persuade the House of Commons Select Committee that it was too expensive an option. We persuaded the last Secretary of State to set up a working group to include Hillingdon Council, to look at the costings again, and we pressed for an independent review of its findings. The group has finished its work, and the new Secretary of State has written to me advising that he is minded not to support the tunnel extension on grounds of cost. However, he has asked one of the Departments’ independent non-executive directors to review the costings.
Some progress made on reducing traffic and soil dumps
As a result of our petitioning, HS2 agreed to work with TfL and Hillingdon Council to consider new options for reducing peak HGV movements on key roads to a max 550 per day and to reduce the number of soil dumps. Their report was published over the summer, and you can access it here. The Secretary of State has confirmed that in principle he would like to accept the main recommendations. This is welcome but we continue to press for confirmation that other options, such as a haul road, remain in play.
This is my most recent correspondence with the Secretary of State and the response I have got back from the Minister who leads on HS2.
Next stop: House of Lords
MPs have regrettably not been allowed to present petitions to the House of Lords Committee. The Council and some resident groups will be presenting petitions on behalf of the community in the House of Lords, probably in mid-November. Boris Johnson and I have invited the Committee to see the area for themselves ahead of those petitions and that invitation has been accepted.
In short, we carry on the fight to get proper local protection from HS2.
Please do not hesitate to contact me, if I can be of help or if you have a view.
November 15, 2016
On Friday 28th October, I visited the new Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner Memorial Park.
As the first purpose-built museum to open in Greater London for over forty years, the museum is dedicated to displaying the work of the famous artist, illustrator, and Pinner resident, William Heath Robinson.
The Museum opened on 15th October, and replaces a smaller gallery of Heath Robinson’s work which was located in West House, also in Pinner Memorial Park. I find it extraordinary how the Museum has managed to bring together such a fantastic collection of Heath Robinson’s work in one place.
I welcome the decision to keep the new museum within Pinner Memorial Park, as I cannot think of a nicer site, and the new building blends in so well.
As a patron of the museum, I am particularly impressed by the architectural flair of the new building. The ambitious architectural designs have been beautifully executed. It is an asset not just for Pinner but also for the country. I am full of admiration.
Many thanks to Cynthia Wells, the acting Chair of the West House and Heath Robinson Museum Trust, and Veronica Chamberlain the Marketing Manager for showing me around. I look forward to visiting again soon.