Warwickshire County Council calls for improvements to the second phase of HS2

Plans published for the second phase of HS2 remain fundamentally lacking in sufficient mitigation for affected communities, according to Warwickshire County Council.

An appraisal of the HS2 Working Draft Environmental Statement (WDES) undertaken by the county council has identified a number of deficiencies in the plans for the Phase 2b route from Birmingham to Leeds.

The local authority’s response to the WDES consultation highlights the drastic impact on the operation of two North Warwickshire country parks, rural villages and strategic road junctions in the scheme outlined by the promoter, HS2 Ltd.

The county council’s chief concern is that at this stage of development HS2 Ltd’s plans still require vast improvements across a number of key areas – particularly in highway redesigns, the inappropriate designation of local roads for lorry use, impacts on vital facilities serving communities, and the treatment of essential service provision.

Cllr Jeff Clarke, Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for HS2, said:

“Warwickshire’s consultation response has provided HS2 Ltd with our early analysis of the impacts of the scheme and, where possible at this stage, we have again contributed broad suggestions for improvements to be incorporated prior to the publication of the full Environmental Statement in 2020.

“The omission of key baseline data from HS2 Ltd at this juncture has limited our ability to provide a comprehensive response on the document and without such information and evidence it is very difficult for us to truly assess and consider the appropriateness of HS2’s suggested mitigation measures.”

Cllr Clarke added:

“However, if HS2 Ltd fails to resolve the county council’s concerns, it would inevitably lead to the need to petition for the necessary improvements when the bill is introduced in Parliament.

“It is the county council’s expectation that HS2 Ltd addresses the concerns we have repeatedly raised and mitigates them accordingly before the final plans are drawn up,” he said.

“But if HS2 is unable to deliver positive solutions then we will have no choice but to seek amendments through the Parliamentary process and put our case before MP’s in Westminster. To date we have been frustrated at the lack of progress on mitigation, given our similar experiences of dealing with the organisation in phase one.”

Specifically, the county council’s response has laid out serious concerns over the design of Bodymoor Heath Lane, access and operation at both Kingsbury Water Park and Pooley Country Park, and the severe impact on using rural roads at Kingsbury, Whateley, Birchmoor and Austrey. In addition, there is the need to revisit the proposal at Junction 10 of the M42 and explore aspirational cutting-edge design solutions which would reduce the impact on surrounding communities and not hamper the future economic prosperity in the borough and the West Midlands with increased traffic congestion and disruption.

The potential for isolation within Birchmoor and the loss of recreational facilities at Austrey are included among the many important local issues raised by the county council, along with general concerns about flood risk, health provision and public rights of way diversions.

The 10,000 page WDES document contained HS2 Ltd’s first public assessment of the impact of the railway which runs through 18 kilometres of North Warwickshire from Kingsbury to the Leicestershire border, affecting communities at Bodymoor Heath, Kingsbury, Birchmoor, Polesworth, Warton and Austrey.

A viaduct is planned to take trains over the lakes at Kingsbury Water Park, which attracts 400,000 visitors a year and is home to abundant rare wildlife, sailing clubs, caravan holidaymakers, mini railway and other businesses, providing jobs for 200 local people. HS2 construction in the area will last for 10 years over both phases of the railway.

The visitor centre and car park at Pooley Country Park, near Polesworth, and the canal wharf are also on the path of the railway. The park is on the site of the former Pooley Hall Colliery and £1.5 million of public money has been invested to transform a scarred industrial landscape into a valued community asset containing the town’s mining heritage.

HS2 Ltd’s timetable is to start construction on Phase 2b in late 2023 and for the railway to be open in 2033. To enable the line to be built, hybrid bill legislation will have to be deposited to Parliament, currently scheduled for summer 2020.

HS2 Ltd published the WDES plans for its Birmingham to Leeds eastern leg route for public consultation which closed on December 21.

To read the county council’s full 14,000 word response to the consultation visit the website at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/hs2

The response takes into account the authority’s views on the impact of HS2 Phase 2b across a whole range of services including archaeology, ecology, public health, social care and transport.