I spoke in the HS2 debate urging Parliament to support my amendments and those of colleagues. Very disappointed at the short time given in the Chamber for such an important issue. I voted against the third reading, to stop the project, sadly I was one of just 42 MPs to do so; the project now looks to be going ahead. I had to shorten my speech due to time constraints, however this was the full version:
Thank you Mr Speaker and I rise to put forward the case for my constituents in North Warwickshire, arguably the most blighted part of the HS2 route outside of London.
The proposals would place a railhead near Kingsbury that would significantly changing the area for local people. The construction of this railhead will take many years – this will be years of chaos and disruption for us. Furthermore there is the ‘Y’ junction near Polesworth meaning both phase one and two impacts on North Warwickshire. Make no mistake local people in my constituency will be some of the worst affected by HS2 in the whole country.
During the last 18 months, I have worked with the action groups, parish councils and local communities that are profoundly affected by HS2; particularly during the construction phase.
At this point, I would like to pay tribute to the members of these groups, who have worked tirelessly over a number of years to protect their homes, villages, towns and livelihoods.
They have had to become experts on a subject that 10 years ago would have been unfamiliar to so many of them. I have been incredibly impressed by their knowledge, organisation and determination to get the best possible outcomes for their communities, whether that be in campaigning to stop the project all together, or getting the best in compensation and mitigation. In many cases it has taken over their lives and the human impact of this Bill should not be underestimated - a point I would like to stress to Members of this House.
Sadly though Mr Speaker, in too many cases, the legitimate pleas by my constituents have fallen on deaf ears by HS2.
I would like to use my time today to make a final case to the Government for vital protections to my local communities such as Kingsbury, Water Orton, Coleshill, Middleton, Lea Marston and Wishaw as set out in the three amendments that I have put forward, in addition to those of other Hon Members that I have co-signed.
A recurring theme that my constituents have faced is the lack of engagement from HS2 during the process to date. Many questions which have been asked of HS2 remain unanswered and their credibility locally is in tatters.
So, those affected by HS2 have little confidence that during the construction phase, this communication will get better. Indeed, unsurprisingly should it be approved by this house, the fear is that communication will deteriorate further.
That, Mr Speaker, is why I am seeking greater protection for North Warwickshire residents. We have been given an assurance by HS2 that due to the impact on our area we are a “special Case”. Sadly, despite numerous requests to HS2, they have neglected to advise what this protection actually is, what the benefits are or even the scope that it covers.
After what my constituents have had to endure over the last six years, they deserve better than that - they deserve some kind of certainty in their future and an acknowledgement that HS2, and the Government, are sympathetic to their cases.
This is why I have introduced amendment NC30 which seeks to set up a community fund to protect local communities from “unintended consequences” which could arise from the construction phase.
This will be supplemental to the community and environment fund and would address adverse impacts of the HS2 construction on communities, for things such as impaired accessibility, reduction in in availability of community amenities, and physical effects of construction.
A principal objective of the fund will be to remove the need for formal compensation claims and to provide an expedited means of claiming funding for detriment.
The fund would only be available to address adverse effects on communities, not impacts on individual households, businesses or undertakings, but among the measures that may be considered as available for funding would be transport facilities such as shuttle services.
The Kingsbury area and surrounding villages in my constituency is clearly a ‘special case’ in the context of the HS2 scheme; to that end there can be no argument. Engagement with our community needs to reach the requirements of a ‘special case’. My further amendment addresses this current lack of engagement including the referral, escalation and monitoring. Crucially, it seeks to resolve the complaints from local people in a timely manner.
There are further arguments that we will hear later today in this chamber regarding the environmental impact of HS2. It is hard to imagine the change to the landscape that the railhead will bring. This is a change that my constituents will be forced to live with. A Third amendment that I have tabled would ensure the land is restored to its current appearance on completion of phase one. This is a form of community compensation which transcends from environmental implications of the scheme.
Mr Speaker, I urge the House to consider amendments to this Bill proposed by myself and other Hon. Members which I have supported in the interests of our constituents. These offer common sense initiatives to support and offer mitigation to those people along the proposed line that need it most.