I have today published my latest update on the work I am doing on HS2.
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Disruption on Harvil Road
Many of you who use Harvil Road will be well aware of the mess that HS2 are making, which in turn has attracted some demonstrators. A number of constituents contacted me to express their horror at the devastation of trees near the site, and I have been in contact with HS2 on their behalf. In essence the trees are being cleared ahead of an “essential” gas pipeline diversion. HS2 are committed to the “re-planting of native trees and shrubs that will compensate for the loss of vegetation removed to facilitate Cadent Gas’ works”. In their words: “The design of the planting will be finalised by our main works contractor during their detailed design process. This will ensure the planting does not clash with the timing and location of future HS2 construction works in the area. The design will be informed by surveys of the trees carried out before they have to be cleared for the necessary utility diversion.”
More detailed information on the works in our area can be found on the HS2 community web portal, which will be updated as the works progress. I will be in contact with the contractor and will be suggesting that they offer a presentation to residents on how this scar on the local landscape will be mitigated.
Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre (HOAC)
As you know, we have worked very hard over many years to get HS2 to see sense on HOAC. It was unthinkable that such a valued community facility could be lost, especially given how much it offers young people in terms of valuable outdoor experience and learning. As a result, we persuaded them to give HIllingdon Council a budget of £26.5 million to replace HOAC. Plan A is to relocate HOAC to a disused quarry near Denham roundabout. I visited this site recently with HOAC management, Cllr Jonathan Bianco and Hillingdon officials (above). It is a different site from the current one, with less woodland available now, but everyone agrees that it has great potential. There is still a long way to go but I have a lot more confidence in Hillingdon Council delivering HOAC 2:0 than I do in HS2.
Answers to our questions
For many years, we have all been frustrated by the difficulty of getting good answers from HS2 to quite predictable questions. We are now entering a new phase of our dealings with HS2 as they appoint contractors who will actually deliver the project. It is to these contractors that we will now be turning for better answers over how the mitigation proposals we negotiated will be put into practice. Frustrated by the failure of HS2 to give answers, I had a helpful exchange of letters with John Parrott, their Senior Engagement Manager, to try to find a better way forward. You can read these letters on my website here.
Since then, residents have begun to meet the appointed contractors but continue to express frustration with me about the flow of information. One example is the continued failure of HS2 to decide and communicate the final setting of the power feeder station on Harefield Moor. I will be meeting the Contractors myself to press for greater clarity, and I will be engaging with the new Independent Construction Commissioner, Gareth Epps, whose job it is to investigate any matters that have not reached a satisfactory conclusion through the complaints process. I will share with him and senior HS2 management the continued frustration of residents with how HS2 engages with the community.
I know how strongly people feel about the Colne Valley and the impact of the HS2 viaduct. I continue to press HS2 for greater transparency on the process around designing the viaduct, which clearly must involve good engagement with the community that has to live with it. A “specimen design” exists but HS2 have continued to resist making it public, and I will press for that to happen. I am also pushing for more detail on their plans for investing a significant budget for environmental mitigation in the area. In that context, I had a good meeting with the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust who have positive plans for how the beautiful Broadwater lake could be further enhanced both for birds and the public.