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House of Commons Hansard
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HS2: Chesterfield Canal Land Purchase
19 April 2018
Volume 639
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3. What information his Department holds on plans by HS2 Ltd to purchase land close to Chesterfield canal; and if he will make a statement. [904811]

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HS2 Ltd will bring forward a draft environmental statement for phase 2b later this year, which will provide greater detail on the land requirements for the construction, maintenance and operation of phase 2b of HS2 and proposed mitigation. This will then be consulted on, and HS2 Ltd will continue to seek the input of landowners, local communities and stakeholders as the design of the railway is developed.

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HS2 is an incredibly important regeneration project, but so is Chesterfield canal, which has had five years of blight, being unable to make applications because of the uncertainty around HS2. Near the maintenance depot that is proposed for Staveley, there is a piece of land currently owned by Network Rail that needs to pass over to HS2. May I encourage the Minister to ask HS2 to get on with taking over ownership of that land so that Chesterfield canal can finally put forward plans to apply for new funding and reduce that blight?

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Let me assure the hon. Gentleman that HS2 Ltd is working with Chesterfield Canal Trust and is committed to finding a solution. HS2 Ltd will be more than happy to meet him to discuss the Staveley design proposals and the interface with Chesterfield canal. I also assure him, however, that Chesterfield Canal Trust has recently publicly said that it is pleased with the recent commitment from HS2 Ltd and is now more confident that a solution will be found.

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Two HS2 lines go through Derbyshire—the one that goes through Newton and the other that is now apparently going to create difficulties on Chesterfield canal. We have heard reference to the question of the real cost of HS2, as it changes quite often. What is the latest cost, taking into account those two railway tracks through Derbyshire?

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As I said, Chesterfield Canal Trust is working with HS2 Ltd and is happy with the relationship they have and the potential outcome regarding the canal area. The hon. Gentleman has reservations about, and has consistently raised, the cost of HS2, but it is on budget and on time. We must not forget that once HS2 is up and running, it will be the backbone of this country, bringing along with it 100,000 jobs.

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The Secretary of State is supporting the sale of Network Rail’s property assets. The Federation of Small Businesses says that this will put small companies out of business because the new private owner will rapidly rack up rents, which will restrict key developments in places such as Chesterfield. Does he not see that the sell-off will lose the railway valuable and vitally important income?

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Minister.

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Come on!

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I apologise hugely, Mr Speaker—I had a momentary lapse. I have no idea how to respond. Forgive me—I will take some direction from you.

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Let us hear it again.

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The Secretary of State is supporting the sale of Network Rail’s property assets. The Federation of Small Businesses says that this will put small companies out of business because the new private owner will rapidly rack up rents, which will restrict key developments in places such as Chesterfield. Does he not see that the sell-off will lose the railway valuable and vitally important income?

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for repeating himself. The Secretary of State met the FSB yesterday and discussions on negotiations are ongoing.

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In 2015, the DFT accepted Sir Peter Hendy’s plan to sell £1.8 billion of Network Rail property. These assets are now worth only £1 billion but generate £90 million of revenue each year. How can the Secretary of State still argue that this sell-off of the family silver makes sense? Is it not clear that his plan will cost Network Rail and British taxpayers dearly?

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The Secretary of State will continue to realise assets when he can. We will then reinvest them in the railway network.