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By Peter Delow

Whoops!

by Peter Delow

One trait that I have developed as the result of my bitter experience of the HS2 project is distrust, contempt and, yes, even hatred of politicians and the system that they employ to screw us, so I can’t begin to express my joy at the total omnishambles that we have all witnessed following the 2017 General Election polling day. The outcome of a process that I had previous characterised as an “unwanted and unwarranted distraction” (see footnote 1) has left bodies strew all over the battlefield and has resulted, in my view, in every political party, save for two in Northern Ireland and the Scottish branches of the two main national parties, finding themselves with little to celebrate.

I feel that our Prime Minister, for now, fully deserves the copious layer of egg that is adhering to her visage for perverting the clear intention of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (see footnote 2) and for taking us mugs so much for granted. Her punishment is severe: her credibility is shot, her future is uncertain, to say the least, she is stuck with Philip Hammond and she finds herself in thrall to the Democratic Unionist Party. For the Conservative Party it is the last of these that is likely to be most significant – although the Tories have retained “and Unionist” in their full party title, I doubt that the regressive, homophobic and misogynistic tendencies of the party that was the creation of Protestant fundamentalist leader Ian Paisley will chime very well with more forward-looking politicians in the Conservative Party (particularly the gay ones), and I don’t foresee a very happy marriage. I expect, however, that, for as long the two parties can tolerate each other, Northern Ireland issues will gain prominence in government thinking and that there will be an early announcement that HS2 is to be extended to Belfast.

For MPs packing their satchels for the new term at Hogwarts Westminster the distribution of seats between the parties is likely to result in unwelcome restraints being placed upon their freedom to roam, as the Whips are likely to require their charges to be ever-present in the precincts of the Palace of Westminster and available to take part in divisions, unless pairing arrangements are reintroduced. Also leave of absence for those much-coveted overseas “fact-finding missions” is likely to be hard to obtain. We should expect to see ambulances parked in New Palace Yard, bringing hardly-breathing Members to make up the numbers and vote, perhaps, for a final time, with death being the only possible excuse for missing a division.

The Labour Party must, of course, share in the blame for the election being held as, without their votes, the Prime Minister could not have obtained the consent of two-thirds of the whole House necessary to carry the motion that a general election be held. I have never understood why Labour MPs went along with this; surely there couldn’t have been a man jack of them at the time who thought that they could win a general election. I guess that it might have been seen as “running scared” if they hadn’t have picked up the gauntlet that Theresa May had thrown down, but it was as sure an example of turkeys voting for Christmas as I have ever seen.

As it turned out, a fortunate Labour Party was blessed with the gift of a totally-incompetent Tory election campaign, the ability to write a very seductive manifesto safe in the knowledge that they were never going to have to deliver on its promises, and having a leader from the old school of socialist politics who, in contrast to the underwhelming campaign performance of Mrs May (see footnote 3), can more than hold his own on the stump. The result was that they did much better than most expected, and the relief in party circles was so great that they appear to be treating the outcome as something of a victory.

However, this “victory” has to be put into perspective. After the 2017 election Labour holds 262 seats, four more than they managed to win at the 2010 general election – a result in 2010 that was seen as a failure then and led, ultimately, to the Leader of the Party standing down. Sadly for the Labour Party, the 2017 result will actually serve to strengthen the position of the current parliamentary party leadership, boost the strength of the left-wing faction in the grassroots and prolong the current situation of the Labour Party being widely viewed as unelectable (see footnote 4). Paradoxically, a really bad performance by Labour might have been the better outcome for the long term, allowing a much-needed cleansing of the Augean Stables to take place.

Whilst the Liberal Democrats improved their occupation of the Commons benches by two, surely many fewer than they were hoping for, their share of the vote actually dropped slightly, they lost a former leader and the present one only just held on with his majority slashed from 8,000 plus to 777. The Party remains, at 12 seats, a long way from the heady heights of the 57 seats secured at the 2010 general election.

As all three of the above parties have been enthusiastic supporters of HS2, I revel in their misfortune and rejoice at the collective good sense of my fellow electors in bringing all of this hardship down on their heads.

Another party that notionally supports HS2, on the probably mistaken assumption that high-speed tracks will reach Scotland one day, is the Scottish National Party (SNP). Although, the party won 35 Westminster seats, the second-highest number in its 80-year history, this was well down on the 56 seats that it held in the last Parliament, resulting in a few tears being shed on election night. Perhaps of more concern for supporters was that the SNP share of the vote fell from 50 per cent in 2015 to 37 per cent and they lost two of their big hitters in Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson – I shall miss Mr Robertson’s ability to rattle Theresa May at PMQs.

The two parties that oppose HS2, UKIP and The Green Party, did not have a good night at all. UKIP’s downward spiral into extinction continued: its share of the vote fell off a cliff from 12.6 per cent in 2015 to 1.8 per cent and its leader has resigned in the wake of this debacle. The Green’s share of the vote more than halved from 2015 (3.7 per cent down to 1.6 per cent), but a very impressive, trend-bucking performance by co-leader Caroline Lucas saw them hold onto their one Commons seat (see footnote 5).

Whilst the continued opposition of these two parties to HS2 is appreciated, I don’t think that the combined Commons forces that they can muster, at one MP, is going to hinder the future progress of HS2 through Parliament, even when that single Member is the formidable Ms Lucas.

Whilst I am on the topic of Commons opponents to HS2, I must record my regret that the representative in the 2015-17 Parliament for the constituency that borders on mine, Warwick and Leamington, lost his seat. Chris White consistently used his vote to oppose the passage of HS2 Phase 1 through the Commons and I am very grateful to him for that. My own MP, Jeremy Wright, who equally consistently failed to take part in HS2 divisions, increased his share of the vote by a couple of percentage points but suffered a reduction of 40 per cent in his majority.

Footnotes:

  1. See my blog Fess up failure fuss, part 2 (posted 31 May 2017).
  2. In moving the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons, the deputy Prime Minister claimed that “The Bill has a single, clear purpose: to introduce fixed-term Parliaments to the United Kingdom to remove the right of a Prime Minister to seek the Dissolution of Parliament for pure political gain” – see Column 621 in House of Commons Hansard for Monday 13thSeptember 2010.
  3. Although she has regularly trounced an apparently hapless Leader of the Opposition at PMQs.
  4. Whether this is a true reflection of the abilities of the Labour front bench is immaterial, as it appears to be the widely-held view of the electorate, fuelled by media that is mostly hostile.
  5. Ms Lucas won 30,139 votes – almost twice as many as second-place Labour – and almost doubled her majority from 7,967 to 14,689. Her share of the vote increased by 10.4 per cent.

Private fears in public places, part 1

by Peter Delow

I must confess that I am not a regular reader of Modern Railways magazine, a publication that styles itself as “essential reading for professionals in the railway industry as well as individuals with a general interest in the state and developments of the British railway network”: I am certainly not in the former category and, unless it serves my interest in debunking HS2, I’m not a keen member of the latter camp either. So I was grateful to be tipped off that there is an article in the June 2017 issue of this periodical that I might find of interest – and I did. This article is authored by the Industry and Technology Editor of the magazine, Roger Ford, and he uses it to disagree with some of the basic engineering choices that have been made by those responsible for defining how HS2 will be realised (see footnote 1).

Aside from a handful of notable exceptions (see footnote 2), members of the railway industry have been remarkably reticent about exposing deficiencies and defects in the HS2 proposition. I attribute this not to any lack in such shortcomings, but to a realisation that, despite HS2 being more of a political grand projet than a well-targeted and beneficial intervention in the UK railway network, it does represent £50bn plus, and probably plus plus, of railway investment that would be likely to evaporate should the project be cancelled. On top of this, it seems that the majority who earn their living from the railway industry are in thrall to HS2 Ltd in one way or another, either by direct employment or under direct or indirect contractual arrangements.

So I was quite surprised, albeit pleasantly so, by the extent of the criticisms levelled at the project in the article by someone who, as well as being an expert in the field, is also closely in touch with industry sympathies.

First off, the article made me painfully aware that I have not been keeping up with reading the unending reams of printed paper that HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport (DfT) produce about the project – if railways were built on paper, then HS2 would have been operational years ago! I have learnt from Mr Ford that what I have been calling “classic-compatible” trains are now officially referred to as “conventional compatible very high speed trains”, which Mr Ford abbreviates to “CCVHST”. I have also learnt that the decision has been taken that all of the initial fleet of up to sixty train sets to be purchased for Phase 1 will be CCVHSTs” – I should have picked these points up when I looked at the Pre-Qualification Technical Summary in preparing Checking the shopping list (posted 23 May 2017), but I’m afraid that I skipped the relevant section in my haste to get to the nitty-gritty on noise.

In his article, Mr Ford takes some time out from his detailed technical analysis to undertake what he describes as a “slight digression” into philosophy. It is clear from this excursus that Mr Ford is as disappointed as I am with the quality and interpretation of the information that the promoters of HS2 have employed to justify the project and its engineering choices. He refers to a paper by philosopher Henry G Frankfurt, which debates the distinction between lying and “bullshitting” (see footnote 3). It is clear that Mr Ford does not want to go as far as accusing HS2 Ltd of lying, which Professor Frankfurt describes as stating something that one knows to be untrue in a conscious act of deception, but does regard some of the statements emanating from the Company as bullshitting, where the originator is unconcerned whether his statement is true, or not: a lie will always be a falsehood; bullshit may be true or false.

Whilst he recognises that it is generally regarded less of an affront to be accused of lying rather than of bullshitting, Professor Frankfurt appears to rate the latter as the greater sin. According to him, “it is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth”, whereas the bullshitter “does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly”.

My preference is to ignore, or more correctly circumvent, Professor Frankfurt’s philosophical distinction by describing output from HS2 Ltd and the DfT that appears to blur the distinction between truth and falsehood as “spin”, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the presentation of information in a particular way; a slant, especially a favourable one”. My understanding of that simple definition is that it can encompass both lies and bullshit, and even a combination of the two.

In his article, Mr Ford debunks a particular example of DfT spin (or perhaps, he would say, bullshit), offered in response to suggestions that the planned HS2 maximum operating speed of 360km/h is unnecessarily high. He quotes the DfT’s response to this suggestion as:

“Reducing the maximum speed of trains from 360km/h to 320km/h would result in trains taking longer to complete their overall journey. This means that, unless we buy more train sets, we will not be able to run as many train services on HS2 and therefore capacity will be reduced.”

This unconventional use of the word “capacity” – a quality that most engineers would regard as determined by the infrastructure rather than the size of the fleet of trains – appears to be yet another bogus argument promulgated by the HS2 camp to associate higher speed with increased capacity, a matter that I recently addressed in my blogs Fess up failure fuss, part 1 (posted 27 May 2017) and Fess up failure fuss, part 2 (posted 31 May 2017).

In the second part of this blog series I will look at the technical arguments advanced by Mr Ford for requiring the CCVHST to employ tilting technology and for reducing the maximum operating speed.

(To be continued …)

Footnotes:

  1. The article is HS2’s Conventional Compatible Conundrum, Modern Railways, pp 26-29 June 2017. Online access to this magazine is only available to subscribers, and articles are not freely available online. A summary of the contents of the article is available, however. Roger Ford trained as a mechanical engineer with a locomotive manufacturer and has been a writer, specialising in railways, for around forty years, whilst pursuing a parallel career as an independent railways consultant.
  2. Chris Stokes, Lord Berkeley and those promoting HSUK spring to mind.
  3. The paper is Frankfurt H G, On Bullshit, Raritan Quarterly Review, Volume 06 Number 2, autumn 1986. In his paper, Professor Frankfurt also offers the word “humbug” as a more gentile near-equivalent to bullshit.

Peter Delow | June 8, 2017 at 6:00 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p1llHM-

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I was very pleased that Cubbington Parish Council recently agreed to support the Charter for Trees, Woods and People (the “Tree Charter”), due to be launched this coming November, by becoming a Charter Branch. This move was taken in response to a circular received from the National Association for Local Councils (NALC), the national membership body for parish and town councils, which is one of a large number of partner organisations involved in the proposed launch, under the chairmanship of the Woodland Trust (see footnote 1).

Traditionally, a charter is a document that sets out rights for a group of people, and the most well-known such document in British history is surely the Magna Carta, which required the monarch to respect the rights of the clergy and barons. The Tree Charter will extend that principle to the relationship between trees and people, and will “guide policy and practice in the UK, enabling a future in which trees and people stand stronger together” (see footnote 2).

The date chosen for the launch of the Tree Charter is 6th November 2017; a date that is significant in being the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest (see footnote 3). The detailed articles of the charter are currently being written by experts from the partner organisations, with the assistance of input from focus group consultations.

With this timescale in mind, you may regard it as premature for any local council to be considering becoming a Charter Branch and, thereby, supporting a document that hasn’t even been written yet. Perhaps, but local councils may be reasonably assured of what they are putting their name to, since the publishing in March this year of The Tree Charter Principles, which sets out the ten tenets that will underpin the Charter.

For Cubbington, a community that has been fighting the proposed destruction of ancient woodland and a certain veteran tree for seven years, the decision to associate the Parish Council with the Charter was, to quote one Cubbington parish councillor, “a no-brainer”. The assurance given by NALC that signing up as a Charter Branch was “completely free and will in no way effect the autonomy of your local council” appeared to clinch it with the Council.

In return for making this small commitment, local councils who become a Charter Branch are promised:

  • that the Charter will serve as a resource that local councils can use in support of their efforts to look after trees in their area
  • free promotional material and newsletters
  • that help or advice will be on hand to help local councils with projects and activities around trees, and that some (limited) grant funds will be available
  • that Charter Branches will have the chance to contribute their voices to the ongoing development of the Tree Charter

Charter Branch local councils who wish to will be given the opportunity to collect signatures in support of the Tree Charter from their local residents: a book in which to collect these signatures will be provided, and for every signature collected a tree will be planted by the Woodland Trust.

More details for local councils considering becoming Charter Branches may be found in a blog written by Joseph Palasz, Tree Charter Communications Officer at the National Association of Local Councils.

Why not ask your own local council if they have registered as a Charter Branch? If the answer is no, then ask why not?

Footnotes:

  1. The Charter website displays the logos of sixty-eight partner organisations, although elsewhere on the website we are told that “more than70 organisations” are involved.
  2. The quote is taken from the treecharter.uk webpage Tree Charter FAQs.
  3. The Charter of the Forest, or Carta de Foresta, was a complementary charter to the Magna Carta that provided a right of common access to the royal forests, including for foraging and grazing livestock.
Peter Delow | May 15, 2017

Back in 2011 I reported (A walk in the woods, posted 3 Apr 2011) on the first in a series of guided spring walks around South Cubbington Wood organised by the Cubbington Action Group against HS2 (CAG). Every year since a similar series of walks has been held to give those interested the opportunity to see the spring flowers in the wood and the veteran pear tree in blossom; so that means, I calculate, that this year is the seventh series.

The format hasn’t really changed over the seven series. CAG provides at least two guides, who loiter outside the King’s Head pub in Cubbington at the appointed hour, rain or shine. Whatever the number of takers – and we have seen as few as one and as many as fifty – the walk goes ahead.

More often than not, the guides have been CAG stalwart, Rosemary, and me, and we have developed a good cop/bad cop double act for the briefings delivered to the participants at intervals during the walk; Rosemary describing all of the natural wonders that can be seen now, and me foreshadowing the Armageddon that will come with HS2. I must admit that, in the early days, the burning anger that I feel when describing the impacts that HS2 will have on the wood and the beautiful countryside that surrounds it, caused me to treat every occasion to address the walkers as an opportunity to denounce HS2 Ltd and its project. Now, in these post Royal Assent times, with swords sheathed and co-operation rather than confrontation being the watchword, I have learnt to be more relaxed. I try to stick to presenting the facts and allow my audience to ask the inevitable “why?” questions that come, and leave them to draw their own conclusions about whether things should be different.

With so many walks over the seven years, I do find myself trotting out the same old phrases, but it is not unusual for questions and comments from those listening to take proceedings up new lines of discussion to keep matters fresh. As some walkers have come back for more than one walk, I have also tried to introduce new topics into my repertoire from time to time.

Inevitably, much of the information that I recite when guiding walks has been gleaned from the research that I have undertaken for my blogs, and new topics suggest themselves by the same route. So, for example, this year I have added talking about biodiversity offsetting to my standard fayre, following on from my recent blog series on this topic (see footnote 1).

This year the billing for the walks included the warning “construction is due to begin later this year”, emphasising that this year’s walks were likely to be the last chance to see the wood and tree in their spring best. This was based upon the timeplan in the Environmental Statement, which shows the construction of the Cubbington cutting scheduled to start in this current quarter, but then followed by nine quarters of inactivity leading to three quarters of construction spanning 2019 and 2020 (see footnote 2).

I attended the meeting held at the end of March that Joe Rukin refers to in a recent blog on the Stop HS2 website and feel obliged to comment that the explanation given by HS2 Ltd at that meeting that the first phase of construction would be enabling works is consistent with the two-phased approach shown in the timeplan for the Cubbington cutting. However, I also feel that Joe makes a convincing case that HS2 Ltd is encountering slippage in the early programme, at least: slippage that the organisation is not prepared to acknowledge, perhaps in the hope that it will be able to make up lost ground as the programme rolls out. Notwithstanding, it appears to me that we can expect the wood to be substantially untouched by spring 2018, and it may even survive to spring 2019 if the programme is still encountering delays by then. What we don’t know, of course, is whether we will be able to access the wood to see the spring flowers in 2018 and 2019, because I think that we can expect that HS2 Ltd will have exercised its compulsory purchase powers on the land that it needs for construction well before spring 2018.

For those of you who have an interest in comparing the progress of the seasons, year by year, I think that it is fair to classify the spring of 2017 as a bumper one for both wood anemones and bluebells.

The anemones were already present in abundance at the time of our first walk on 27th March, but the flowers were closed up due to overcast conditions. On 1st April we were treated, in bright sunshine, to probably the best display that I have seen in recent years, with the flowers fully open, and the same was true for our third walk held on 9th April. On 17th April there were still plenty of wood anemone flowers, but they were again closed due to a lack of sunshine, but this marked the start of the inevitable decline, and by our last walk on 6th May there was just the odd flower remaining.

Image: Frances Wilmot

The first bluebell blooms were in evidence on our 9th April walk, and numbers built up during April, but we didn’t really see peak quantities until our last walk on 6th May.

Image: Frances Wilmot

The veteran pear tree appeared to pass through its stages of development very rapidly this year. When we visited it on 1st April, the blossom was just beginning to break, and was well in evidence, but not at its peak, a week later (9th April). By our next visit, on 17th April, the tree was well into leaf, hiding what blossom remained.

Footnotes:

  1. The blogs in the series that specially cover offsetting are Compensation culture, part 6 (posted 8 Mar 2017), Compensation culture, part 7 (posted 12 Mar 2017) and Compensation culture, part 8 (posted 16 Mar 2017).
  2. See Figure 5 in the publication London-West Midlands Environmental Statement Volume 2: Community Forum Area Report, CFA17 Offchurch and Cubbington, HS2 Ltd, November 2013.
Peter Delow | May 11, 2017

 

 

 

(… continued from Berth defect, part 1, posted on 3 May 2017).

In the example that I reported at the end of part 1 of the Oxford Canal near Wormleighton, which was shown to the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee by the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) representative Grenville Messham, the noise contour prediction (see footnote 1) shows that two nearby sections in a stretch of that canal will be subjected to noise above the significant observed adverse effect level (SOAEL). Each of these sections is approximately 250 metres long, so at an assumed boat speed of 1.1 mps transiting each section will take around 4 minutes. At the maximum traffic level planned for HS2 of 18 trains per hour each way, each transit could cover four train passes.

But these two sections are within a longer stretch of the canal that is predicted to experience HS2 noise levels above the lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL). This stretch is approximately 2.5 km, taking around forty minutes to navigate; enough time to experience up to twenty-five train passes.

But some sections of canal do not permit unhindered passage, because they require the boater to negotiate one, or more, locks. Mr Messham told the Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee that a lock “takes you about 20 minutes to work” and showed the Members his exhibit A2108(4), depicting a section of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal near Kingsbury in north Warwickshire. He pointed out that there are “four locks that are within that canal within reasonable range of the [HS2] viaduct”, which he had “shown by four red circles”. He concluded that “assuming there are no holdups or queues, it will take you on your boat around 80 minutes to work through those four locks past the viaduct” and that, during that time, “you can’t be inside the boat – you have to be out and about doing the locks and stuff” and, therefore, are fully exposed to the noise (see footnote 2).

When he pleaded his case to the Lords Select Committee Mr Messham raised the possibility that boaters could spend an even longer period within a stretch of canal blighted by HS2 noise if they made use of a “casual mooring” for an overnight berth. He explained (see footnote 3):

“Individual boats come and go for moorings. If a mooring is occupied by a succession of people on boats, there is then surely a frequent residential presence that should not be ignored. Noise mitigation to residential standards would not be refused for a hotel or a hospital because the rooms are not permanently occupied by the same people. The fact that people reside there for various periods of time is sufficient to merit their protection from excess noise impacts and the same principle should apply to boats.”

The Promoter was represented by James Strachan QC in the Commons and Tim Mould QC in the Lords, and it was the latter who explained his client’s position more fully. He stated that the SOAEL and LOAEL thresholds had been specified on the basis of “permanent occupancy by the same people”, reflecting the “evidence base upon which [these thresholds] are actually derived”. The data forming this evidence base, according to the silk, “derive from a panoply of social services in relation to evidence of the health effects of transport noise on people in their bedrooms and in their living rooms” and they “don’t provide a reliable basis for developing thresholds for those in temporary sleeping, as it were, on a temporary mooring on a canal” (see footnote 4). He did concede, however, that the Promoter treats “permanent residential moorings in the same way as … permanent residential buildings” (see footnote 5).

Mr Mould asserted that “the same criteria do not apply” to temporary moorings where “the exposure of the occupants would be limited to the time that the boat is there, typically a maximum of 14 days”. He said that he recognised that a mooring exposed to HS2 noise might be “a less congenial place to stop than perhaps 200 metres away or something like that”, but that a move up the canal a little to ensure a better night’s sleep was “a relatively small price to pay” (see footnote 6).

Mr Mould conceded that the “1.4-metre-high acoustic barriers” that would be installed at “all HS2 canal crossing points” would not “provide attenuation to the pantograph [noise]”, but pointed out “the visual effect of having very substantial barriers on bridges going over canals in what are generally rural areas” and that the additional screening that Mr Messham was seeking was “simply disproportionate” (see footnote 7).

Neither of the Promoter’s silks made reference to the possibility of providing mitigation on the approaches to the viaducts.

The Promoter’s representations clearly held sway over both committees, since the only references in the reports made by them to their respective Houses to canal users, which are both in the Lords report, relate to long-term moorings and the problems of adding sound insulation to canal boats (see footnote 8).

Aside from his pleadings for those making use of casual moorings, which I regard as stretching things a little beyond reason, I feel that Mr Messham made a good case that canal users should be given special consideration with regard to noise mitigation. In its written submission to the Commons Select Committee the IWA lists eight locations on the canal network where it is seeking an improvement in the mitigation proposed for Phase 1. Making some improvements at this small number of locations hardly seems disproportionate to me and, as Mr Messham pointed out to the Lords Select Committee “can be accommodated within the existing land take and powers” (see footnote 9).

I think that HS2 Ltd should rethink its intransigence.

Footnotes:

  1. See drawing SV-05-040b in the publication London-West Midlands Environmental Statement Volume 2: Map Book CFA16 Ladbroke and Southam, HS2 Ltd, November 2013.
  2. See paragraph 254 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Thursday 4thFebruary 2016.
  3. See paragraph 32 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  4. See paragraph 80 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  5. See paragraph 79 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  6. See paragraphs 84 and 87 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  7. See paragraphs 85 and 88 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  8. See paragraphs 152 and 369 in the publication Special Report of Session 2016-17 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, House of Lords Select committee on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, 15thDecember 2016.
  9. See paragraph 33 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.

Acknowledgement: Exhibit A2108(4) has been extracted from the bundle of evidence  submitted to the HS2 Select Committee by the Inland Waterways Association and published on the Committee’s website.

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee from which some of the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken is an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

Peter Delow | May 7, 2017 at 6:00 am

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) is a membership charity that works to protect and restore the country’s 6,500 miles of canals and rivers for the benefit of users of both the waterway and the towpath. The Association petitioned against HS2 in both Houses of Parliament and appeared before both select committees, represented on both occasions by volunteer trustee Grenville Messham (see footnote 1).

At both of his appearances at Westminster Mr Messham led with his concerns about the impacts that HS2 noise would have upon canal users. His worries could be classified as impacts upon the amenity value of the parts of the canal system that will be affected by HS2, and a more specific concern about sleep disturbance for boaters mooring overnight near HS2 canal crossing points. Both of these areas raise interesting discussion points and are, I feel, worthy of further consideration here.

On the general question of amenity value, it was Mr Messham’s contention that “most people use their waterways … as a place for recreation and quiet reflection”, and that boaters at some locations on the canal network “will experience noise and nuisance [from HS2 trains] of well over 90 dB” (see footnote 2). Whilst it is clear that HS2 noise will reduce the amenity value of the canals for its users, it might be argued that canal users are no different in this respect to other recreational users of the countryside. Walkers on a footpath that crosses or runs alongside or bridges the HS2 track, for example, will suffer a similar loss of amenity.

In general, however, the noise management policy that has been developed for the HS2 project does not include amongst its aims the protection of open countryside. This, no doubt in part at least, is a reflection on the concentration of the principles of the Noise Policy Statement for England on the long-term effects on health and wellbeing resulting from exposure to noise and, hence, primarily to protecting locations where people live and work. Bearing in mind the cost implications, and even sheer impracticability, of seeking to protect from the impacts of HS2 noise every parcel of open countryside having amenity value, it could be considered that there is not a case, in general, that HS2 Ltd should be going beyond its current proposals, which rely primarily on specifying noise reduction features for the trains. Nevertheless, the third aim of the Noise Policy Statement for England, seeking to contribute to the “improvement of health and quality of life through the effective management and control of environmental, neighbour and neighbourhood noise”, is connected in the Explanatory Note to the Policy to the “protection of quiet places and quiet times” and so perhaps HS2 Ltd should be seeking to do more (see footnote 3).

I also feel that Mr Messham was able to plead special circumstances that relate to waterway users that strengthen the case for additional mitigation measures against HS2 noise impacts on our canals.

These follow because the reason that the HS2 track comes close to a canal in the majority of cases is because it has to cross that canal. Such a crossing normally involves a section of viaduct between two lengths of embankment. Mr Messham advised the Commons Select Committee that, by agreement between HS2 Ltd and the Canal & River Trust (CRT), the minimum clearance that will be provided for such a crossing is three metres above the water. This means that boaters passing under the viaduct could come very close indeed to a high-speed train running at, or near, its maximum operating speed – “well within 10 metres” according to Mr Messham. Whilst the exposure to such an extreme noise event  will be for a short time only, it will cause, according to Mr Messham, an “instantaneous change in sound levels of over 40 dB” and there will be “very little boaters can do to avoid this noise” (see footnote 4).

Mr Messham told the Lords Select Committee that, by agreement with the CRT, “it’s specified in the design principles for crossings that the design of acoustic barriers should be low-level and as close as is reasonably practical to the tracks to minimise visual impact”. He added that “this applies only to bridge or viaduct structures at crossings, and the agreement … is silent about noise mitigation for the approaches either side of the crossings”. The IWA, according to Mr Messham, “regards this as very much a minimum position”, being an arrangement which “will shield noise from the train wheels on the track, but do nothing to reduce noise from the pantographs or the overhead wires, and have little effect on aerodynamic noise from the passage of trains through the air”(see footnote 5).

In order to illustrate the potential that HS2 has to cause nuisance to canal users, Mr Messham showed the Lords Select Committee a noise contour map for the Oxford Canal near Wormleighton, Warwickshire, similar to the one reproduced below (see footnote 6).

Source: HS2 Ltd

Mr Messham described, for the benefit of the Committee, that “as the railway travels from right to left, it moves from level ground … in to a viaduct where a footpath goes underneath, and then crosses the canal itself in a small viaduct” and pointed out that “noise nuisance above SOAEL spreads across the canal” (see footnote 7).

(To be concluded …)

Footnotes:

  1. The appearance before the Commons Select Committee is reported from paragraph 246 of the transcript of the Committee’s proceedings for the morning of Thursday 4thFebruary 2016. The Lords session was held on the afternoon of Wednesday 23rd November 2016 and is recorded from paragraph 23 of the transcript for that session.
  2. See paragraphs 250 and 253 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Thursday 4thFebruary 2016.
  3. See paragraph 2.25 in the Explanatory Note to the publication Noise Policy Statement for England (NPSE), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, March 2010. Mr Messham also reminded the Commons Select Committee of this aim of the NPSE: see paragraph 256 of the transcript of the morning session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Thursday 4thFebruary 2016.
  4. See paragraph 253 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Thursday 4thFebruary 2016.
  5. See paragraph 34 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  6. Due to an error on the Lords Select Committee website, I have not been able to access a copy of the exhibit used by Mr Messham. Instead I have utilised a section of the HS2 Ltd noise contour map included in the Environmental Statement, which is SV-05-040b in the publication London-West Midlands Environmental Statement Volume 2: Map Book CFA17 Offchurch and Cubbington, HS2 Ltd, November 2013. I have added the blue serpentine line to emphasise the path taken by the Oxford Canal.
  7. See paragraph 36 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016. SOAEL is the noise level at which significant adverse effects begin to be observed, and locations at which this level is predicted to be exceeded are indicated on the noise contour map by the pink shading.

Acknowledgement: The Ordinance Survey mapping upon which the HS2 Ltd route design is overlaid has been reproduced in accordance with the principles of fair dealing as set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.  On this basis, this mapping is:

Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO.

© Crown Copyright. All rights reserved

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee from which some of the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken is an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

Peter Delow | May 3, 2017 at 6:00 am

[New post] Human rights and human wrongs, part 3

 
 

 

 
Peter Delow posted: “(… continued from Human rights and human wrongs, part 2, posted on 25 Apr 2017). The sentiments expressed by the five petitioners that I have reported so far in this blog series are, I trust, reasonably representative of the many voices that were raise”

New post on HS2 and the environment

Human rights and human wrongs, part 3

by Peter Delow

(… continued from Human rights and human wrongs, part 2, posted on 25 Apr 2017).

The sentiments expressed by the five petitioners that I have reported so far in this blog series are, I trust, reasonably representative of the many voices that were raised in protest at the way that decent people were being treated appallingly by a State that was hell-bent on seeing the HS2 project become an awful reality, but there is one more petitioner who I really must mention. That petitioner is Mrs Pam Whittam (see footnote 1), who lives with her husband, Martin, in the village of Twyford in Buckinghamshire. Mrs Whittam submitted a written statement to the Commons Select Committee, which was read out for her.

At the time, the couple were both 74 years old and living, as Mrs Whittam puts it, “in a house which we love in a village which we adore”, but in recent years this idyll has become for the couple “a time which we find frightening and intimidating because of what the proposed railway is doing to our lives”. The spectre of HS2 is, perhaps, particularly menacing to the Whittams because Mr Whittam is “suffering from memory loss”, which is probably a symptom of “the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease”.

Anyone who has suffered the misfortune, as I have, of a near relative succumbing to this dreadful disease will understand why Mrs Whittam would say that “familiarity of our world is such a comfort to Martin” and that, accordingly, she does not want to move. However, the progression of Mr Whittam’s illness may make a move necessary in the course of time and Mrs Whittam fears that, when that time comes, the blight resulting from HS2 means that the couple will “find it difficult to sell”.

In those circumstances, I would expect that, an application to the Need to Sell scheme (NTS) would be successful, although you can never predict how the NTS Panel will rule. It is not, however, the possibility of failure that worries Mrs Whittam, but the process of applying. In her words:

“I have watched and listened to my friends and next-door-neighbours … struggle with the complicated process of the Essential Hardship Scheme (sic). They have had to jump through hoops to produce information which is required, laying their lives open to forensic investigation of health records and financial affairs. I just do not have the energy or the will to face that sort of struggle as it would be me on my own as Martin is now not able to apply himself to such an onerous task.”

She concluded her statement with a simple plea to the Committee:

“I feel that our lives are being caught up in a nightmare which shows no sign of ending. Please let us have our free choice so that we, or as will probably be the case, I, can choose to move without the fear of a lifetime’s loss of equity and without having to endure the tyranny of the Essential Hardship Scheme”.

It would be wrong to accuse the Commons Select Committee of being indifferent to the succession of tales of sad circumstances and heartless treatment that they heard from hapless petitioners. Indeed, its Members showed great sympathy, and the Committee took the significant step of demonstrating its concern by publishing a special report devoted solely to the topic of the NTS scheme. Whilst this report recognises that the operation of the scheme had improved over the time that the Committee had been sitting, it did note some significant shortcomings and concluded that there “remains some disparity between the aspirations for the scheme and the way it is actually working” (see footnote 2).

I should also report that some progress has been made in making improvements to the compensation schemes arising from discussions between the Department for Transport and the HS2 Action Alliance that followed representations made by the latter to the House of Lords Select Committee.

These discussions aside, both Parliamentary committees having packed their bags, the administrators of the compensation schemes have lost their superego and much of the impetus to improve. The latest statistics for the NTS scheme show a 59/41 acceptance/rejection rate for Phase 1 and Phase 2a.

In its end of term report the Lords Select Committee makes some interesting comments on the legal context of the compensation schemes and, bearing in mind that the Committee’s Chairman was a retired Supreme Court Justice, one might think that these comments have some considerable legal authority. The report includes a section that discusses the degree of compliance of the HS2 compensation arrangements with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the UK’s underlying obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms (see footnote 3). Elsewhere in the report two significant comments are made that arise from the impact of these human rights provisions (see footnote 4).

The first of these is that Article 14 of the Convention prohibits discrimination in the enjoyment of Convention rights, and that it follows from this that the “human rights of thousands of residents of parts of Camden require that they should be properly compensated, and that a fair balance is struck between the rights of owner-occupiers and residential tenants, and between rural and urban residents”. In making this observation, the Lords Committee almost appears to be inviting some body, or individual, from Camden to test in the courts the legality of the HS2 compensation proposals, and the limits set by the Rural Support Zone in particular.

The second is the observation that, “in the absence of a non-statutory scheme, the statutory compensation code might, on its own, fail to comply with Convention rights” and the Committee’s description of the statutory code as obscure and inadequate. It seems totally indefensible to me that there should be doubt that our statutory compensation provisions comply with the Human Rights Convention, and that it has been necessary to concoct ad hoc non-statutory schemes for the HS2 project in order to address any shortcomings.

It is clear that the Law as it relates to property compensation requires urgent amendment, so that the need for non-statutory schemes can be avoided. That this is necessary is clearly illustrated by a report on a recent successful legal action in respect of a blight notice that a landowner had served on HS2 Ltd: my understanding is that recourse to the courts to contest the decision of the Secretary of State is not an option that is open to applicants to any of the non-statutory schemes.

Footnotes:

  1. Mrs Whittam’s quotes are taken from paragraphs 380 to 383 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Thursday 22ndOctober 2015.
  2. See Chapter 2 and paragraph 29 of the publication First Special Report of Session 2015-16, House of Commons Select Committee on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, 16thDecember 2015.
  3. See paragraphs 272 to 280 in the publication Special Report of Session 2016-17 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, House of Lords Select committee on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, 15thDecember 2016.
  4. See paragraphs 213 and 225 in Special Report of Session 2016-17 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill.

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee from which the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken is an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

 

 

 

Peter Delow posted: “(… continued from Human rights and human wrongs, part 2, posted on 25 Apr 2017). The sentiments expressed by the five petitioners that I have reported so far in this blog series are, I trust, reasonably representative of the many voices that were raise”

Respond to this post by replying above this line

New post on HS2 and the environment

Human rights and human wrongs, part 3

by Peter Delow

(… continued from Human rights and human wrongs, part 2, posted on 25 Apr 2017).

The sentiments expressed by the five petitioners that I have reported so far in this blog series are, I trust, reasonably representative of the many voices that were raised in protest at the way that decent people were being treated appallingly by a State that was hell-bent on seeing the HS2 project become an awful reality, but there is one more petitioner who I really must mention. That petitioner is Mrs Pam Whittam (see footnote 1), who lives with her husband, Martin, in the village of Twyford in Buckinghamshire. Mrs Whittam submitted a written statement to the Commons Select Committee, which was read out for her.

At the time, the couple were both 74 years old and living, as Mrs Whittam puts it, “in a house which we love in a village which we adore”, but in recent years this idyll has become for the couple “a time which we find frightening and intimidating because of what the proposed railway is doing to our lives”. The spectre of HS2 is, perhaps, particularly menacing to the Whittams because Mr Whittam is “suffering from memory loss”, which is probably a symptom of “the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease”.

Anyone who has suffered the misfortune, as I have, of a near relative succumbing to this dreadful disease will understand why Mrs Whittam would say that “familiarity of our world is such a comfort to Martin” and that, accordingly, she does not want to move. However, the progression of Mr Whittam’s illness may make a move necessary in the course of time and Mrs Whittam fears that, when that time comes, the blight resulting from HS2 means that the couple will “find it difficult to sell”.

In those circumstances, I would expect that, an application to the Need to Sell scheme (NTS) would be successful, although you can never predict how the NTS Panel will rule. It is not, however, the possibility of failure that worries Mrs Whittam, but the process of applying. In her words:

“I have watched and listened to my friends and next-door-neighbours … struggle with the complicated process of the Essential Hardship Scheme (sic). They have had to jump through hoops to produce information which is required, laying their lives open to forensic investigation of health records and financial affairs. I just do not have the energy or the will to face that sort of struggle as it would be me on my own as Martin is now not able to apply himself to such an onerous task.”

She concluded her statement with a simple plea to the Committee:

“I feel that our lives are being caught up in a nightmare which shows no sign of ending. Please let us have our free choice so that we, or as will probably be the case, I, can choose to move without the fear of a lifetime’s loss of equity and without having to endure the tyranny of the Essential Hardship Scheme”.

It would be wrong to accuse the Commons Select Committee of being indifferent to the succession of tales of sad circumstances and heartless treatment that they heard from hapless petitioners. Indeed, its Members showed great sympathy, and the Committee took the significant step of demonstrating its concern by publishing a special report devoted solely to the topic of the NTS scheme. Whilst this report recognises that the operation of the scheme had improved over the time that the Committee had been sitting, it did note some significant shortcomings and concluded that there “remains some disparity between the aspirations for the scheme and the way it is actually working” (see footnote 2).

I should also report that some progress has been made in making improvements to the compensation schemes arising from discussions between the Department for Transport and the HS2 Action Alliance that followed representations made by the latter to the House of Lords Select Committee.

These discussions aside, both Parliamentary committees having packed their bags, the administrators of the compensation schemes have lost their superego and much of the impetus to improve. The latest statistics for the NTS scheme show a 59/41 acceptance/rejection rate for Phase 1 and Phase 2a.

In its end of term report the Lords Select Committee makes some interesting comments on the legal context of the compensation schemes and, bearing in mind that the Committee’s Chairman was a retired Supreme Court Justice, one might think that these comments have some considerable legal authority. The report includes a section that discusses the degree of compliance of the HS2 compensation arrangements with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the UK’s underlying obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms (see footnote 3). Elsewhere in the report two significant comments are made that arise from the impact of these human rights provisions (see footnote 4).

The first of these is that Article 14 of the Convention prohibits discrimination in the enjoyment of Convention rights, and that it follows from this that the “human rights of thousands of residents of parts of Camden require that they should be properly compensated, and that a fair balance is struck between the rights of owner-occupiers and residential tenants, and between rural and urban residents”. In making this observation, the Lords Committee almost appears to be inviting some body, or individual, from Camden to test in the courts the legality of the HS2 compensation proposals, and the limits set by the Rural Support Zone in particular.

The second is the observation that, “in the absence of a non-statutory scheme, the statutory compensation code might, on its own, fail to comply with Convention rights” and the Committee’s description of the statutory code as obscure and inadequate. It seems totally indefensible to me that there should be doubt that our statutory compensation provisions comply with the Human Rights Convention, and that it has been necessary to concoct ad hoc non-statutory schemes for the HS2 project in order to address any shortcomings.

It is clear that the Law as it relates to property compensation requires urgent amendment, so that the need for non-statutory schemes can be avoided. That this is necessary is clearly illustrated by a report on a recent successful legal action in respect of a blight notice that a landowner had served on HS2 Ltd: my understanding is that recourse to the courts to contest the decision of the Secretary of State is not an option that is open to applicants to any of the non-statutory schemes.

Footnotes:

  1. Mrs Whittam’s quotes are taken from paragraphs 380 to 383 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Thursday 22ndOctober 2015.
  2. See Chapter 2 and paragraph 29 of the publication First Special Report of Session 2015-16, House of Commons Select Committee on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, 16thDecember 2015.
  3. See paragraphs 272 to 280 in the publication Special Report of Session 2016-17 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, House of Lords Select committee on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, 15thDecember 2016.
  4. See paragraphs 213 and 225 in Special Report of Session 2016-17 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill.

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee from which the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken is an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

[New post] Human rights and human wrongs, part 3 Inbox x HS2 and the environment <[email protected]> Unsubscribe Apr 29 (3 days ago) to me Respond to this post by replying above this line New post on HS2 and the environment Human rights and human wrongs, part 3 by Peter Delow (… continued from Human rights and human wrongs, part 2, posted on 25 Apr 2017). The sentiments expressed by the five petitioners that I have reported so far in this blog series are, I trust, reasonably representative of the many voices that were raised in protest at the way that decent people were being treated appallingly by a State that was hell-bent on seeing the HS2 project become an awful reality, but there is one more petitioner who I really must mention. That petitioner is Mrs Pam Whittam (see footnote 1), who lives with her husband, Martin, in the village of Twyford in Buckinghamshire. Mrs Whittam submitted a written statement to the Commons Select Committee, which was read out for her. At the time, the couple were both 74 years old and living, as Mrs Whittam puts it, “in a house which we love in a village which we adore”, but in recent years this idyll has become for the couple “a time which we find frightening and intimidating because of what the proposed railway is doing to our lives”. The spectre of HS2 is, perhaps, particularly menacing to the Whittams because Mr Whittam is “suffering from memory loss”, which is probably a symptom of “the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease”. Anyone who has suffered the misfortune, as I have, of a near relative succumbing to this dreadful disease will understand why Mrs Whittam would say that “familiarity of our world is such a comfort to Martin” and that, accordingly, she does not want to move. However, the progression of Mr Whittam’s illness may make a move necessary in the course of time and Mrs Whittam fears that, when that time comes, the blight resulting from HS2 means that the couple will “find it difficult to sell”. In those circumstances, I would expect that, an application to the Need to Sell scheme (NTS) would be successful, although you can never predict how the NTS Panel will rule. It is not, however, the possibility of failure that worries Mrs Whittam, but the process of applying. In her words: “I have watched and listened to my friends and next-door-neighbours … struggle with the complicated process of the Essential Hardship Scheme (sic). They have had to jump through hoops to produce information which is required, laying their lives open to forensic investigation of health records and financial affairs. I just do not have the energy or the will to face that sort of struggle as it would be me on my own as Martin is now not able to apply himself to such an onerous task.” She concluded her statement with a simple plea to the Committee: “I feel that our lives are being caught up in a nightmare which shows no sign of ending. Please let us have our free choice so that we, or as will probably be the case, I, can choose to move without the fear of a lifetime’s loss of equity and without having to endure the tyranny of the Essential Hardship Scheme”. It would be wrong to accuse the Commons Select Committee of being indifferent to the succession of tales of sad circumstances and heartless treatment that they heard from hapless petitioners. Indeed, its Members showed great sympathy, and the Committee took the significant step of demonstrating its concern by publishing a special report devoted solely to the topic of the NTS scheme. Whilst this report recognises that the operation of the scheme had improved over the time that the Committee had been sitting, it did note some significant shortcomings and concluded that there “remains some disparity between the aspirations for the scheme and the way it is actually working” (see footnote 2). I should also report that some progress has been made in making improvements to the compensation schemes arising from discussions between the Department for Transport and the HS2 Action Alliance that followed representations made by the latter to the House of Lords Select Committee. These discussions aside, both Parliamentary committees having packed their bags, the administrators of the compensation schemes have lost their superego and much of the impetus to improve. The latest statistics for the NTS scheme show a 59/41 acceptance/rejection rate for Phase 1 and Phase 2a. In its end of term report the Lords Select Committee makes some interesting comments on the legal context of the compensation schemes and, bearing in mind that the Committee’s Chairman was a retired Supreme Court Justice, one might think that these comments have some considerable legal authority. The report includes a section that discusses the degree of compliance of the HS2 compensation arrangements with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the UK’s underlying obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms (see footnote 3). Elsewhere in the report two significant comments are made that arise from the impact of these human rights provisions (see footnote 4). The first of these is that Article 14 of the Convention prohibits discrimination in the enjoyment of Convention rights, and that it follows from this that the “human rights of thousands of residents of parts of Camden require that they should be properly compensated, and that a fair balance is struck between the rights of owner-occupiers and residential tenants, and between rural and urban residents”. In making this observation, the Lords Committee almost appears to be inviting some body, or individual, from Camden to test in the courts the legality of the HS2 compensation proposals, and the limits set by the Rural Support Zone in particular. The second is the observation that, “in the absence of a non-statutory scheme, the statutory compensation code might, on its own, fail to comply with Convention rights” and the Committee’s description of the statutory code as obscure and inadequate. It seems totally indefensible to me that there should be doubt that our statutory compensation provisions comply with the Human Rights Convention, and that it has been necessary to concoct ad hoc non-statutory schemes for the HS2 project in order to address any shortcomings. It is clear that the Law as it relates to property compensation requires urgent amendment, so that the need for non-statutory schemes can be avoided. That this is necessary is clearly illustrated by a report on a recent successful legal action in respect of a blight notice that a landowner had served on HS2 Ltd: my understanding is that recourse to the courts to contest the decision of the Secretary of State is not an option that is open to applicants to any of the non-statutory schemes. Footnotes: Mrs Whittam’s quotes are taken from paragraphs 380 to 383 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Thursday 22ndOctober 2015. See Chapter 2 and paragraph 29 of the publication First Special Report of Session 2015-16, House of Commons Select Committee on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, 16thDecember 2015. See paragraphs 272 to 280 in the publication Special Report of Session 2016-17 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, House of Lords Select committee on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, 15thDecember 2016. See paragraphs 213 and 225 in Special Report of Session 2016-17 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill. Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee from which the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken is an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

A compromising position

by Peter Delow

Whatever else I may think about Jeremy Corbyn, I have always regarded him as a conviction politician. However, politics is a very rough trade and, when push comes to shove, anyone who aspires to success in that business has to be prepared to put considerations of politics before any convictions that he or she may hold, and Mr Corbyn is, it appears, also at the mercy of that law of the jungle. Mr Corbyn’s political star is, of course, in ascendancy. In a matter of a few weeks his status has transformed from a rank outsider in the Labour leadership stakes, scrabbling around for the signatures of sufficient MPs to get his name on the ballot paper, to be regarded now as the favourite to succeed to the post. He has almost reached celebrity status; packing the streets of Camden recently with the fervent, or just curious, wanting to hear him speak. There was a time, when I was much younger and less cynical, when I would have been at risk of being inspired by what he had to say that evening, and I confess that there are elements within his speech that have some appeal even to my politically jaded palate. Whatever his possible election might mean for the future prospects for power of the Labour Party, I feel that one advantage of an Opposition under his leadership would be the end to the cosy consensus politics that have stupefied political debate in this country. We would at last have true alternatives on the table and proper discussion of them taking place, and “Amen to that!” I say. But, as I advertised at the start of this posting, all of this inspiration stuff is at risk of being tainted by the day-to-day necessities of becoming leader in the first place, and rule number one appears to be don’t upset your backers. One particular policy that appears to be causing Mr Corbyn problems in this respect is HS2. The day after his Camden triumph Mr Corbyn was in Leeds to launch his policy paperNorthern Future. That same morning an article appeared in The Guardian that included what was claimed to be a quote from the document: “The Conservative government has torn schools away from the support networks of local authorities, regardless of the wishes of teachers and parents, and made them accountable directly to Whitehall, bypassing parents and local communities. They have suspended the much needed investment in rail infrastructure in the north to fund HS2, a project with the aim of turning our great regional cities into dormitories for London businesses.” Whilst the second sentence does not actually say that HS2 should be scrapped, it is a clear nod in that direction, and the article promised that Mr Corbyn would, in his launch speech, “raise a question over [HS2]”. However, when the launch took place neither document nor speech contained a single reference to HS2. The first sentence about schools is still in the document, word for word on page 5, but the second sentence is nowhere to be seen, providing a strong indication of it being excised from the original draft prior to publication. This is certainly the view expressed in an article in the Birmingham Mail, which offers the explanation that “the statement was included in a draft policy document published by mistake”. The article also tells us that, “There was some confusion after his campaign team said the comments were not currently his official position” – some confusion indeed! It does appear that Mr Corbyn has been on something of a journey regarding his position on HS2. He has in the past spoken warmly about the project, but he failed to support both the hybrid Bill and the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill in Commons divisions, including voting against the latter at Third Reading. There must be a strong suspicion that he now harbours doubts about HS2, doubts that led to the sentence referring to HS2 being included in the original draft of Northern Future. It is difficult not to conclude that some person or persons has been at work behind the scenes to persuade Mr Corbyn not to be critical of HS2. I will leave you to speculate on the identity of this person or persons, but suggest that those with the biggest influence over Mr Corbyn are probably his backers on the left of the party. So when fellow leadership hopeful Andy Burnham referred to “vested interests getting their claws into Westminster” during his visit to Camden recently (as I reported in my blog Camden contemplations, posted 21 Jul 2015), these interests may be closer to home than he might have thought at the time.

Peter Delow | August 18, 2015 at 6:00 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:http://wp.me/p1llHM-1Vf

by Peter Delow

In my blog The environment was the real loser, part 2 (posted 27 Jan 2014) I lamented that the HS2 project, which I described as “the most destructive proposal of all”, had been able, by ignoring the requirements of the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, to “simply by-pass an essential stage of environmental checking”. It appears that I am not the only person who is troubled by this; the matter appeared to be uppermost in the mind of Joan Walley MP, Chairman of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, when she opened the questioning of witnesses invited the oral evidence session of the Committee that took place on the afternoon of Wednesday 26th March 2014 (video). So it was that, once the introductions and an opening statement by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Robert Goodwill MP, had been dispensed with, Ms Walley got straight on to this topic (refer to Q100 in the transcript). “Perhaps our starting point is that we are going to be having a Hybrid Bill and we are very clear that Strategic Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Assessments are not legally required under the House’s Standing Orders and the Hybrid Bill procedure. Therefore, the question to ask is: how much of the work that has been done on the Environmental Statement covers what would have been required had the House been in the position to carry out to the letter of the law the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessments that would normally be required on a scheme of this kind?” I think that we all know that, if you want a straight answer to a straight question, you really shouldn’t ask a politician, even if, like Ms Walley, you happen to be a politician yourself. It was no surprise, therefore, that the Minister lavished a few hundred words in response to this question, none of which appeared to be designed to address the substance of Ms Walley’s concern. So it was that Mr Goodwill appeared anxious to boast to us that the environmental impacts of HS2 had been lessened by “investing in tunnelling, in cuttings and in other environmental mitigation”. He also used the occasion to make the accusations about “vexatious” petitioners attempting to “gum up the works” that I complained about in my blog Enemies of the people, part 2 (posted 11 May 2014). However, when it came to “how the Committee deals with this when it gets into the Hybrid Bill Committee” he did not feel that this was something that he, as a Minister, could “get involved with” and that “it is up to the Committee themselves to order their business”. Even in this most direct part of his “answer” he was failing to address Ms Walley’s question; what she had asked him referred to the process that had been used for the work done up to now, not what should happen next. However, Ms Walley appears to have the powers of persistence and stubbornness that are essential attributes, I would have thought, for someone charged with the task of chairing a House of Commons Select Committee. She rephrased her question (Q102): “I am still not exactly clear how the work that is included in [the Environmental Statement] has differentiated between what would be expected of a strategic nature, i.e. should the route be here or should it be there? Aspects of that strategic nature as opposed to when you start to dig down on the very specific environmental impacts, which are two different things.” Presumably sensing that the Minister would not be too comfortable with persistent questioning on a subject that he may not be willing or able to address, Peter Miller stepped in to take over the burden from his political master. As Head of Environment and Planning for HS2 Ltd, Mr Miller surely understood what Ms Walley was getting at. Clearly he did, but he was only prepared to offer the same old argument that we had heard in the High Court that the Appraisal of Sustainability had included the “sort of things that you would see through SEA” – clearly this did not satisfy Ms Walley (Q103): “The list of things that you said that you looked at, where environment was included as one of them, is not quite the same thing as having a Strategic Environmental Assessment where you look at it from the perspective of the environment in its totality, is it?” Mr Miller did, at this point, admit that what had been carried out in the preparation of the Appraisal of Sustainability was not “an SEA process itself”, but maintained the view that “the coverage of the Appraisal of Sustainability was comprehensive and what we were looking at were the range of sustainability issues that you would other see through SEA”. This appeared to result in an agreement to differ and the questioning moved on to consider what impact Sir David Higgins’ changes might have on what Ms Walley described as the “wider Environmental Strategic Assessment”. However, the topic obviously remained at the forefront of Ms Walley’s mind, and she mentioned the word “strategic” a number of times in her subsequent questioning (refer to Q105, Q106 and Q111). (To be continued …)
Peter Delow | June 8, 2014 at 6:00 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:http://wp.me/p1llHM-1qb