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Insights

19 March 2015

Tales of the Committee – HS2 moves forward at pace

Following an intensive period of petition-based activity (including an action packed day for the Select Committee on Monday with an overspill to Committee Room 7 for the first time), now is an opportune moment to take stock of where we are – particularly given that the Committee is due to rise shortly in preparation for the General Election.

In short, the Select Committee has made significant progress along the route and has passed through the key Phase 1 areas of Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire.  Buckinghamshire has largely been left out so far (site visits in Buckinghamshire are not due to take place until after the General Election) and some petitioners from as far south as Harefield (being just inside the M25 ring) are due to have been heard by the end of this week.

It is also clear that HS2 are continuing to negotiate with various petitioners up and down the route – something that the Select Committee are particularly keen on both seeing and being updated on.

There is however a word of warning for petitioners.  On Monday alone three petitions were thrown out because the petitioners failed to appear and did not give their reasons until after their scheduled appearance had passed.  This again is a clear signal from the Select Committee that they want to make progress and the chair, Mr Robert Syms MP made that point clearly again on Monday.

A further important development this week was the announcement from the Secretary of State for Transport as to the effect of the pre-Election period within which the powers of Government (and its associated bodies) are restricted (known as Purdah).  The effect of Purdah on HS2 means that, from 30 March, restrictions will be placed upon HS2 Ltd such that no new assurances, undertakings or agreements can be entered into until a new Government is formed following the General Election.  Similary no new Promoter Response Documents will be capable of being issued during this period either.  That said, it was confirmed to us by Leading Counsel for HS2 that this will not prevent HS2 from considering (and even negotiating) the terms of such assurances, undertakings and agreements during that period.

Finally, the last day pre-Purdah on which the Select Committee will openly sit will be 23 March (after which there will be private sittings).  Following that date, it will prepare its interim report on the process to date which will be published in due course.

Future blogs during the period of Purdah will refocus where we are on the compensation schemes and on further developments as and when they arise.

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