Cheshire East Council has announced that it has withdrawn its petition against the High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill after securing a package of commitments from both HS2 Ltd and the Government.
The withdrawal follows several months of negotiations between the council and HS2 Ltd to address the concerns and issues the authority had raised through its petition against the hybrid bill for HS2 Phase 2b, as well as through its petition against the first additional provision to the Bill, known as AP1, which it has also withdrawn.
The Bill seeks the powers to construct and operate Phase 2b of HS2 (Crewe to Manchester) and had its Second Reading in the House of Commons in June last year.
Councillor Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council and chair of its highways and transport committee, said: “The council has been clear that whilst it is minded to support the HS2 scheme in principle and recognises the major economic benefits and opportunities it would bring, it also recognises that there will be communities that will be adversely affected by it and this support remains conditional.
“I am pleased that through extensive negotiations, we have now secured a number of commitments from both HS2 Ltd and the Government – including in relation to the scheme’s impacts on the environment, landscape, ecology and local transport network – that collectively will provide a better outcome for Cheshire East and its communities.
“However, we are naturally very disappointed by the announcement from Government last week that construction of the HS2 route from Birmingham to Crewe is now delayed by two years.
“This means a delay in HS2 coming to Crewe, and a delay in the benefits and opportunities it would bring to the north being realised.
“Despite this, the Bill still remains in Parliament – irrespective of this announcement – and the petitioning process is an important opportunity for the council to formally raise its concerns and influence the Phase 2b proposals before the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.
“We needed to ensure that we responded robustly to the proposals and that when the scheme is delivered, it is delivered in a way that provides the appropriate levels of mitigation and maximises the opportunities available, and that these are brought forward as early as possible.”
The council had been due to present its petitions to the Select Committee on Monday (13 March).
The commitments received by the council from HS2 Ltd are known as ‘assurances and undertakings’ and include:
- Additional highway junction improvements
- Road safety mitigations
- Active travel improvements
- The installation of adaptive signal technology to improve bus service efficiency on key construction routes
- Assurances relating to environmental, ecology and biodiversity mitigation
- Assurances relating to the impacts of construction traffic during key events held at Tatton Park
Critically, the council has secured a commitment directly from Government to fund an extensive appraisal to consider what work is required at Crewe Station to support HS2, which will consider the interventions needed at the station to address both the needs of the passenger and the regeneration potential for the town.
It has also committed to funding the detailed design work of the interventions recommended as a result of the appraisal. The outcomes of the appraisal are expected to be reported back to the council later this year.
The design work will enable existing planned works at Crewe station to be adapted to support these recommendations and to support future government business cases that would allow these interventions to be delivered as early as possible.
The Government has confirmed that the study will utilise the council’s existing plans and regeneration frameworks so that the authority’s ambitions for a Crewe Hub, which include a new transfer deck to make it easier for people to access platforms and to change between trains at Crewe, are fully considered.
Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “I am pleased that today we can announce the package of assurances and undertakings we have received, and that we have secured some significant opportunities and benefits through this process.
“I would like to make it clear that withdrawing our petitions does not mean that we have concluded our efforts to secure the council’s shared vision for an enhanced Crewe hub station that can accommodate between five to seven HS2 trains per hour, nor to seek the appropriate mitigation against the negative impacts of the scheme and its construction.
“The council will have further opportunity to influence the scheme and to petition the Bill as it progresses through Parliament and will continue to do this in consultation with local ward members and town councils.”
While no longer presenting the petitions, Cllr Corcoran did attend Select Committee on Monday to deliver a written statement. A recording of this statement will be made available to view here:
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