Cheshire West and Chester Council will decide whether to petition against the HS2 Phase 2b: High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill 2022 at Full Council on 19 May.
Petitioning against the Bill is the process to make sure the voices of residents are fully heard at national Government level.
The Council supports the general principle of HS2. This is the biggest infrastructure project in a generation. The construction of HS2 Phase 2b will have a significant impact on the lives, communities and countryside of west Cheshire for many years. It is vital that the Council conducts continuing detailed scrutiny of HS2 to ensure that the impact on the Borough is as minimal as possible.
Full Council will consider opposing the scheme in its present form, working with the Government consultants to reduce the impact on the borough of the construction and operation of HS2, including of any other associated buildings and infrastructure to ensure it does not unnecessarily harm the Cheshire countryside or create unnecessary blight on residents, businesses and recreational facilities.
The Council’s priority measures required of HS2 include mitigation, community advocacy, maximising the opportunities for deriving economic benefit and employment opportunities for residents, maintaining traffic flow, ensuring community safety and holding HS2 Ltd to account during the construction phase.
For details about how the borough will be affected plus questions and answers there is an HS2 page on the Council’s website: www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/hs2
Petitioning before the House of Commons Select Committee is the process the Council can use to seek early-stage commitments from Government for additional measures to help offset the massive adverse impacts on local communities and businesses. These impacts will include construction and operation of the HS2 high speed rail line as it passes through the borough in addition to the planned building and operation of the depot near Wimboldsley.
The Council has been working closely with HS2 Limited, about these impacts in addition to helping ensure that maximum opportunities are made available to businesses and the local workforce.
Councillor Karen Shore, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport said: “We support the general principle of HS2, with the economic and environmental benefits it will bring. Petitioning against this Bill allows us to influence decisions and to make sure the concerns of our residents are heard at the highest level. We need reassurance that certain measures will be put in place to help with the vast negative impacts on our communities, businesses, local services as well as on our natural and built environment.
“Submitting a petition does not guarantee this assurance but if we do not, it could be considered that we are satisfied with all of the current proposals. This is a distinct opportunity to formally present the case to the Government and seek commitment for additional mitigation measures before the Bill becomes law as an Act of Parliament.
“We are working closely with other local authorities and will assess opportunities for collaboration and pooling of resources to maximise the region’s response to the Bill.
“Petitions may also be submitted by individuals, groups of individuals, or organisations directly affected by the Bill.”
It is anticipated that the Bill could have its second reading in Parliament in early summer 2022, followed by a period of approximately 25 days for petitions to be submitted which could be before July 2022.
The new rail line is planned to travel through the borough between Walley’s Green, passing Middlewich to the east, Winsford to the west and crossing the River Dane. The route will continue north to the east of Lostock Gralam.
The proposed scheme includes the Crewe North rolling stock depot, an operational and maintenance hub featuring twenty-seven 400-metre-long sidings to accommodate up to 54 high speed trains.
Construction and commissioning are currently expected to take place in stages between approximately 2025 and 2033 followed by track laying, systems installation, and testing. The duration, intensity, and scale of works along the route will vary over this period.
The Council is acutely aware of the positive and negative consequences of HS2 to residents in some areas of the borough. It also fully recognises that HS2 could also deliver benefits for the borough and sub region. Improvements to bus and rail services would combine to increase the attractiveness of using public transport and reduce the number of journeys made by car. The petitioning process would also enable the Council to seek changes to the delivery of the HS2 scheme that could reduce its carbon impact.
These benefits, however, are only expected if the right level of HS2 train services at Crewe are secured. The Bill’s proposals, allowing for five or seven HS2 trains per hour calling at Crewe, which would support significant economic growth for the region but needs to be accompanied by more frequent train services across the borough. This will help meet aims identified under one of the twelve priority areas for the Council’s Inclusive Economy Plan to ‘improve transport access to job opportunities with increased public and active travel links, increasing connectivity to break down key barriers faced by communities.’