2,000 petitions against HS2 spark delay fears
Almost 2,000 petitions have been sent to the Government opposing HS2 - putting a 2017 start date in jeopardy, campaigners revealed today.
Councils, businesses, charities, special interest groups and individuals have submitted the documents which make the case for a string of changes to the £50 billion scheme.
In total 1,925 petitions have been received by the House of Commons with campaigners saying it will take at least two years for MPs on the HS2 Select Committee to examine the detail alone before Parliament has to vote on the project again.
HS2 chief executive Simon Kirby wants 'spades in the ground' by 2017 and chairman Sir David Higgins has warned that delays could see the cost of the scheme spiral.
Penny Gaines, of Stop HS2, said: "We know that the number of petitions for HS2 is more than the HS1 Bill and Crossrail Bill.
"The Crossrail Bill took 22 months to go through the petitioning stage alone.
"So if the same level of care and detail is taken on HS2 it should take much longer and should be two years minimum which will mean actually getting work started in 2017 will be unlikely as the legislation has to go to the House of Commons and the House of Lords."
HS2 Ltd said that it still was on course to start work in 2017.
Ben Ruse, lead spokesman of HS2 Ltd, added: "HS2 Ltd has demonstrated its commitment to positive engagement with local communities, businesses and other interested parties through hundreds of meetings and consultation events along the route of the line.
"It is an important part of the process that all parties who feel they may be affected by the construction and operation of the railway are able to petition.
"These petitions will now be considered by the Select Committee as part of the hybrid Bill parliamentary process."
Staffordshire County Council is one of the bodies to petition against the scheme, which will cut a 45-mile swathe through the county.
Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Economy and Infrastructure, said: "We are committed to getting the best deal we can for Staffordshire. This means reducing the impact of the route, getting timely compensation for residents and securing any economic benefits there are for the county.
"After HS2 successfully completed a key Hybrid Bill hurdle, we have to deal with the reality of the scheme being built and our priority must be getting the best result for Staffordshire
"For months we have been working closely with communities and local councils to ensure we have a robust and credible case for Staffordshire and have now formally submitted out petition to Parliament."
In petitioning the committee the county gives detailed proposals of modifying the design to lessen the direct impact on communities and on the landscape – particularly on the skyline view of the three spires of the Grade 1-listed Lichfield Cathedral.
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