Campaigner blasts HS2 Community Forums

HS2 campaigner Mark Barton just outside Westbury with The River Great Ouse in the background.'120705M-B944
HS2 campaigner Mark Barton just outside Westbury with The River Great Ouse in the background.'120705M-B944

A CAMPAIGNER has described a community forum organised in Brackley by the firm behind the HS2 proposals as a tick box exercise.

But Mark Barton from Mixbury, said he will continue to asked tough questions at the Newton Purcell to Brackley HS2 Community Forum, to ensure inadequacies in the process are exposed during any future legal challenge.

The first invite only forum at Brackley Town Hall in March was attended by campaigners, and members of the parish, district and county councils.

They grilled a panel of HS2 representatives and the minutes from the March meeting state: “Forum members expressed a distrust of HS2 Ltd and felt that information had been withheld.”

The tough questioning continued during the last meeting on Wednesday, June 20.

Mr Barton said: “My personal opinion is that you must be there to document and record the mis-management of the while process, because you can expect at some point it will be subject to a judicial review or inquiry, and they are going to want to know why the questions we asked were not answered.

“It is just a tick box exercise and they are not really prepared to engage with us.”

“However we did get some information they rather regretted afterwards. The crux of my questions to them was based on the information they are prepared to release.

“They are currently out doing Environmental Impact Assessment work at the moment. I asked whether they would be prepared to release raw data so we can have it analysed independently.

“They have no intention of releasing the data until after the results are published.”

Mr Barton also asked questions about where power cables and pylons would go and said without that information a landowner may agree mitiagtion relating to the track, but may find a electricity pylon at the end of their garden once the hybrid bill is published.

He also said HS2 Ltd has missed the opportunity to utilise local knowledge to minimise disruption when country lanes and villages access roads for construction work.

He was also frustrated he could not get answers on what methodology they had using when producing the EIA. He was also told no changes can be made to the route or mitigation after September this year, before the forum takes place.

Most damningly Mr Barton said many important documents will not be released until the hybrid bill is published and that changes to the route and mitigation will not take place after September this year.

He added: “They will not release information until they are deposited for the hybrid bill.

“Mitigation you have agreed could be just smoke and mirrors and you won’t know about it until it’s too late.”

A HS2 Ltd spokesman said: “There will continue to be opportunities for people to make their case for changes and for appropriate changes to be incorporated. It is not the case that changes to the design won’t be possible after any particular month this year.

“While initial work on the Environmental Impact Assessment will be based upon a snapshot of the design in November, work will continue after this to further develop the design and mitigate any impact. We welcome the continued involvement of local communities to inform this process.

“We have always been clear that there would need to be additional infrastructure associated with power supply to the route. This is the subject of ongoing design work, and we will share the outcomes with communities as soon as we can. They will be included in the consultation on the draft Environmental Statement in Spring 2013.”