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HS2 Safeguarding Consultation

Volume 587: debated on Tuesday 4 November 2014

Further to my statement of 27 October, Official Report, column 7WS, in which I welcomed the key recommendations in Sir David Higgins’ report “Rebalancing Britain”, I am today announcing to the House the launch of a consultation on safeguarding directions for the western leg of HS2 phase 2 between Fradley, near Lichfield, to Crewe.

Safeguarding is an established part of the planning system in the UK. It ensures that land which has been identified for major infrastructure is protected from conflicting development. The consultation will run for nine weeks, closing on 6 January 2015.

In Sir David’s “HS2 Plus” report of March 2014 he suggested opening the line to a new hub station in Crewe in 2027, six years earlier than planned. In response I commissioned HS2 Ltd to undertake a route consideration process, informed by feedback from consultation. While a decision has yet to be made on the phase 2 route, I can inform the House that the analysis we have undertaken to date, points towards an onward connection from HS2 phase 1 through to Crewe and that it is therefore appropriate to consult on whether I should make safeguarding directions for that part of the route.

HS2 Ltd has examined hundreds of options for the whole route for the western leg of phase 2 across five criteria: constructability, sustainability, journey time, cost, and demand. HS2 Ltd has refined these options into a number of recommendations through a sifting process that balanced these different criteria. Following a careful consideration of the suggestions put forward by consultees, including those put forward by Stoke-on-Trent city council, HS2 Ltd advice is that on the analysis done so far—and there is more to do—the Crewe route looks likely to be the right route choice.

A connection from the high speed line to the west coast main line at Crewe would allow towns across the north west to benefit from HS2 with trains running direct to Crewe, Liverpool, Carlisle, Lancaster, Preston, Wigan, Warrington, Chester and Runcorn. Crewe would also permit ready access to HS2 to north Wales. HS2 Ltd’s analysis recognises the importance of serving these areas too.

Other destinations served by the proposed HS2 phase 2 route, on both the eastern and western side of the country, should be reassured that we continue to be committed to a Y-shaped HS2 network delivered as quickly as possible. Decisions on the phase 2 route will be taken when the necessary analysis has been completed, and my Department continues to carefully review the material submitted by consultees and the further work undertaken by HS2 Ltd. While we work towards finalising a route for phase 2, I cannot rule out the possibility of needing to make changes to the route including from Fradley to Crewe. But in the interests of ensuring the timely and economic delivery of phase 2, I must consider protecting that part of the route from conflicting development in the meantime. Making safeguarding directions would also trigger the entitlement for affected owner-occupiers to ask the Government to buy their property under statutory blight arrangements.

Following a decision on the route of phase 2, HS2 Ltd will undertake a more detailed design study; and safeguarding directions made following this consultation would have to be reviewed. As with safeguarding for HS2 phase 1, updates are also to be expected as greater understanding of the engineering requirements will clarify whether or not the correct land is safeguarded or whether any changes need to be made.

I am placing copies of both the phase 2 (Fradley to Crewe) safeguarding consultation and the HS2 safeguarding maps (Fradley to Crewe): general notes on draft safeguarded area documents in the Libraries of both Houses.