Council calls for HS2 enabling works to be paused
Written by The Newsroom on June 5, 2019
Staffordshire councillors are calling on the Government to pause enabling works on the first phase of the controversial HS2 project.
The first part of the high speed line from London is set to run up to the outskirts of Lichfield. with part the second phase continuing through the north of the county via Stafford Borough. Enabling works have already started on the first phase ahead of the main civil engineering works.
But calls to scrap the HS2 project have continued – while supporters have warmed that failing to build the line would be a disaster for regional economies and national prosperity.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has defended the impact of HS2 on the region so far, describing it as a critical piece of national infrastructure.
The impact of the project on Staffordshire sparked a motion at Thursday’s full county council meeting calling for leader Philip Atkins to write to the Government, to request that all enabling works on Phase 1 in in the county are halted “until the Notice to Proceed to main works contractors has been approved”.
The motion, put forward by Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader Mark Winnington, added: “As required by the Department of Transport Notice to Proceed should not be given until management capability, affordability of contracts and robustness of revised business cases have all been proven.
“We see no reason why Staffordshire should suffer significant disruption and long-term environmental destruction until detailed design and cost has been approved. We also ask that HS2 Ltd significantly improves the effectiveness of its community engagement with those impacted by the line.”
Councillor Winnington, speaking at Thursday’s meeting, said: “We have fundamentally opposed the high speed project from the start and we continue to express concerns about the scheme – but at the same time we have been proactive and persuasive about changes which can and should be made.
“Like other affected authorities we would like to see a pause on Phase 1 enabling works to help mitigate the need for unnecessary disruption in Staffordshire until detailed designs and costs have been approved.
“At Staffordshire we’ve done all that’s been asked of us. We accepted the burden of austerity. We have taken hard decisions.
“I have to ask the question what is Parliament doing for us? What we are seeing is a total inability from the whole of Westminster to make any decisions. I get upset when Parliament’s ineffectiveness impacts upon the UK. But I am livid when when inaction starts to affect our great county.
“This motion will ask our leader to write to central government asking two things. The first is that they make a decision to scrap HS2 or issue a notice to proceed with Phase 1. And the second is until a decision is made, stop ripping up Staffordshire. This is our green and pleasant country.”
Councillor Martyn Titley, who represents the Lichfield Rural West ward and seconded the motion, said: “Just moving 100m of spoil can be 12,000 lorries. Getting under the A38 could be 12,000 lorries and lorry movements.
“Then you have got to put the 125,000 cubic metres of spoil somewhere til you need it another day because thar’s part of Phase 2a. You are going to start building moonscapes all round Staffordshire in a very big way. Wherever you live in Staffordshire you will not escape this.
“It’s going to take them 390 days to clear this spoil under the A38. Lorries are going to be queuing on the A38, so you’re only going to get one lane of the A38 running. Everybody knows that the A38 is at capacity now, so we’re going to have some major problems.
“What’s really sad, as everybody who attends the briefing meetings with HS2 will tell you, is that it’s changed every day. They’re making this up as they go along and they are going to kill Staffordshire.
“What concerns me is they’re going to build huge concrete structures as part of enabling works, and then we’re going to find they’ve cancelled the project. It’s going to be a disaster. We really have got to get HS2 to the table.”
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