Whilst Parliament continues to be gridlocked by Brexit, I continue to represent my constituents’ views with regard to HS2, and the project’s impact upon our community. I have welcomed the Governments review of HS2, for which I lobbied the Prime Minister, and I am advised that the review is due to be completed soon.
On the 25th of September I wrote to both the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt. Hon. Grant Shapps MP, and to the two chairs of the Government’s review, Douglas Oakervee and Lord Berkeley. I have since also met with the chairs in Parliament on the 8th of October, to discuss the impact of HS2 and the enabling works on my constituency.My perspective at this stage, which I have made clear to the chairs of the review, is that if new rail capacity is required to improve North-South links, then we should rightly invest. However, the Government owes it to taxpayers to ensure that any further investment is smart, focused, and that it demonstrates best value. I have always been sceptical about the marginal case for the original HS2 proposals. Since they were first pitched to the public and to Parliament the cost of the project has escalated alarmingly. It is right to look at it again.
I have formally requested that the Secretary of State for Transport suspends enabling works whilst the project is under review, which many local residents and colleagues of mine in Parliament have also requested. I welcomed an earlier announcement by the Secretary of State that any works which threaten ancient woodland will rightly be suspended, pending the outcome. The Secretary of State said of the decision: “This strikes the sensible balance the Department is looking to achieve between… stopping irreversible actions, and causing unnecessary delays to the project if it continues.” I want any unnecessary damage to our natural environment to be prevented. Our local environment is a priority for us all and I have made my position clear.
I have additionally requested that the enabling works surrounding the proposed electric cabling between Rayners Lane and West Ruislip be suspended – to avoid any unnecessary disruption to residents.
I have separately raised the cases of individuals and organisations affected by the project. I had requested that the Hillingdon Outdoors Activities Centre (HOAC) in Harefield, be permitted to remain in situ whilst the review is underway and into their next season. I am pleased that HS2 themselves have been receptive in this regard and that a partial delay in HOAC’s case has been agreed, following my intervention. The Secretary of State confirmed that HS2 can “postpone the acquisition of HOAC’s site until February 2020. However, they are not able to move the works programme beyond March 2020 as the programme is fixed by key dates such as the National Grid outage.” I have been assured by him that HS2 will permit the continuation of activities at HOAC, albeit possibly reduced out of necessity, for as long as it safe to do so.
I will of course continue to work closely with Hillingdon Council to ensure that any further support or assistance which can be granted to HOAC at this stage, to minimise any possible future disruption, is afforded to them.
I have continued to keep the Prime Minister, my constituency neighbour, updated. He is aware of community concerns in my constituency and of my specific requests whilst the review into HS2 is ongoing. In the meantime, I will continue to engage with HS2 – highlighting issues which affect my constituents and representing their view of the project at the heart of government.