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28 October 2014

Let the Hearings begin

HS2 Petition hearings began on 1 September and the Select Committee will spend the next months (and potentially years) scrutinising nearly two thousand objections, following the route from Birmingham to London.

The Committee is currently in the middle of hearing Petitions and, this week, is focussing on a Northamptonshire site visit followed by hearing from a number of interested Warwickshire based parties (including local Government).

As a reminder, the fate of HS2 Phase One will ultimately be decided by vote of Parliament. Petitioners cannot stop the scheme but they can play a key part in reshaping what Parliament will vote on. The Committee can ask for changes to the structure for compensating those people, businesses and other interests who are affected by the new line, it can argue for extra tunnels and it can force through measures to cut congestion noise amongst many other things.

There is a strict process to be adhered to at each hearing, as explained by this official note: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/hs2/HS2-procedure-in-committee-note-rev-vers-3.pdf. The note makes it clear that the Committee of 6 MPs wants to stay on schedule, emphasising the need for petitioners to keep their representations succinct and relevant. Petitioners are asked to submit witness (e.g. engineering experts, lay witnesses etc) names at least two days in advance of the hearing. Petitioners should also confirm who they wish to present their case to the Committee – typically a Parliamentary agent with the support of a barrister.

In other news, on 9 September the government proposed amendments to the HS2 Bill, known as the ‘Additional Provisions’. Affected landowners should have received notice of these provisions, which were accompanied by supplementary environmental information. The Additional Provisions do not change the route or alignment of the track, however they do grant additional rights (both temporary and permanent) over parcels of land. According to HS2 there are three main reasons for the additional provisions. These are firstly to accommodate landowners, secondly to reflect design development and thirdly to accommodate utility companies.
That leaves the announcement on HS3. We will cover this, and what it may mean for those directly affected and the wider business/social community in our next post.

Please do not hesitate to contact Charles Russell for further information on any of the above. Our HS2 team includes appointed Parliamentary Roll “B” agents who would be happy to assist at, and in the preparation for, Petition hearings.  Contact can be made either through this blog, to the lead members direct or via the dedicated email, HS2Team@charlesrussell.co.uk.

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