High Speed 2 (HS2)
Background to High Speed 2 (HS2)
HS2 through Buckinghamshire
High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) is a Government national infrastructure project to build a high-speed rail line linking London to Manchester and Leeds, via Birmingham.
The project has been split into three phases:
- phase One of the HS2 route will run from London Euston to Birmingham with intermediate stations at Old Oak Common in west London, and near Birmingham Airport
- phase 2a extends the route to Crewe
- phase 2b extends the route to Manchester and Leeds.
The route passes through approximately 60 km from the south east of the county up to the north west.
This short video was produced by the Sunday Times about the impact of the construction works around Calvert. It features drone footage of the scale of construction and moving testimonies from affected residents.
Progress Update on High Speed Two
HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson has published a 6 monthly report on the progress of HS2.
This report covers data reported by HS2 Ltd to the end of January 2021 and includes updates on major milestones such as Phase 2a Royal Assent, information on key policy developments and a stronger focus on the environment, alongside the latest information on costs, schedule, risks and mitigating actions.
Concerns raised about impacts of HS2’s tunnelling operations
Buckinghamshire Council and Chilterns Conservation Board have serious concerns about the impacts of HS2’s tunnelling operations on Buckinghamshire’s aquifer and chalk streams. These concerns relate to pollution resulting from tunnelling operations, increasing abstraction of water and impacts on the flow of significant chalk streams, such as the River Misbourne.
A joint position statement has been issued by the council and the Chilterns Conservation Board with a series of questions. The aim was to seek reassurance from HS2 Ltd that worst case scenarios relating to the impacts of their tunnelling operations have been addressed. This has been annotated with initial responses from HS2 Ltd, however we are still waiting for clarification on a number of points and will consider our response once this has been obtained.
Buckinghamshire Council’s position on HS2
High Speed 2 (HS2) is the biggest infrastructure project in a generation. The construction of HS2 Phase One will have a significant impact on the lives, communities and countryside of Buckinghamshire for the next 10 years and beyond. It is imperative that we continue to provide detailed scrutiny of HS2 to ensure that the impact on Buckinghamshire is as undisruptive as possible.
In April 2019, Councillors at Buckinghamshire County Council voted unanimously to ask the Government to halt HS2 enabling works in Buckinghamshire until they had issued Notice to Proceed. In addition, the motion asked that HS2 Ltd significantly improved community engagement with those affected. Unfortunately, the Government issued full Notice to Proceed a year later in April 2020. Notice to Proceed is the formal approval for the project to begin the construction phase and activate the main works civils contracts.
As the project has progressed, our priorities have evolved to include:
- community advocacy
- minimising the environmental impacts
- maximising the opportunities for deriving economic benefit
- considering planning and highways applications
- ensuring community safety
- holding HS2 Ltd to account during the construction phase
Buckinghamshire Council should protest against HS2
We are unable to use public funds to continue to protest against HS2. The Government has imposed restrictions on local authorities’ use of public spending through the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. This means that we are unable to use lobbyists such as political professionals to influence public officials, Members of Parliament, political parties or the Government to take a particular view on any issue.
We respect the right of those who wish to lawfully and safely protest. Such activity is first and foremost a police matter and we expect HS2 Ltd to treat individuals and groups with sensitivity.
The HS2 legislation
The HS2 Act of Parliament
The HS2 Act grants the powers to construct Phase One of the HS2 network, but also powers to:
build and maintain HS2 and its associated works
- compulsorily acquire interests in the land required
- affect or change rights of way, including the stopping-up or diversion of highways and waterways (permanently or temporarily)
- modify infrastructure belonging to statutory undertakers (e.g. utility companies)
- carry out work on listed buildings and demolish buildings in conservation areas
- carry out protective works to buildings and third-party infrastructure
The HS2 Act also grants the necessary changes to existing legislation to help with the construction and operation of Phase One of HS2.
Powers under which HS2 is operating
The HS2 Act of Parliament allows construction on scheduled works to start within 10 years of the Act having been passed in February 2017.
The legislation includes amendments made as a result of petitions to Parliament. The formal commitments are called ‘undertakings’ or ‘assurances’ which must be delivered by the scheme. These are all included on the register of undertakings and assurances.
Following Royal Assent for the HS2 Act, HS2 Ltd appointed contractors to provide early works and main works for the railway. In Buckinghamshire, contractors Fusion JV are conducting early works and Eiffage Kier Ferrovial BAM (EKFB) JV and Align JV, the main works.
A Schedule 17 submission under the act
As the HS2 Act has already granted deemed planning permission for proposed work, Schedule 17 submissions are not the same as planning applications.
Schedule 17 of the HS2 Act sets out the conditions of the deemed planning permission and the lorry routes. Schedule 17 puts in place a process for the approval of certain matters relating to the design and construction of the railway. This requires that the nominated undertaker (the organisation on whom the powers to carry out the works are conferred) must seek approval of these matters from the relevant authority.
These matters are:
- building works (permanent, above-ground buildings)
- other construction works (earthworks, road vehicle parks, screens, transformers,
- telecommunications masts, pedestrian accesses, fencing/walls, lighting)
- matters ancillary to development (construction camps)
- road transport routes (to be used by large goods vehicles)
- bringing into use (to ensure that appropriate mitigation has been incorporated)
- site restoration
The difference between a Schedule 17 submission and a planning application
The HS2 Act has already granted deemed planning permission for Phase One of the railway. The requests for approval under Schedule 17 are not the same as planning applications.
Some elements of the detailed design of the railway and associated works require
further approval. Comparisons can be made between the deemed planning permission granted for the works and permission granted for an outline planning permission under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The main distinction between the two is that under the HS2 Act the grounds on which the authority can approve further details and apply conditions are more constrained.
Furthermore, the authority cannot refuse work that has been permitted through the HS2 Act, but instead the details of those works.
How decisions on Schedule 17 submissions will be taken by us
All decisions relating to Schedule 17 submissions have been delegated to the relevant Council officials. However, as we are member led organisation, members may wish officers not to exercise their delegated powers.
How we will decide whether or not to grant approval for Schedule 17 submissions
Schedule 17 of the HS2 Act creates a new planning regime for the approval of certain matters relating to the design and construction of the railway. It sets out the limited grounds on which we can refuse to approve or attach conditions to submissions.
For example, in respect of Building Works these grounds include that the design or external appearance of the building works ought to be modified:
- to preserve the local environment or local amenity,
- to prevent or reduce prejudicial effects on road safety or on the free flow of traffic in the local area,
- to preserve a site of archaeological or historic interest or nature conservation value
If we were to reasonably request modifications to avoid injury to the character and appearance of the local area, it would also be necessary for us to show that such a modification would be reasonable. It should also not add unduly to the cost or programme of HS2 Phase One, or conflicting with the operational requirements of the railway.
Lorry route Schedule 17s
Approval by the Local Highway Authority (LHA) is required for construction routes where Large Goods Vehicles (LGV) (over 7.5 tonnes) movements exceed 24 a day (to or from the site). The consenting authority is the one where the items are being transported to or from.
As with planning Schedule 17s, there are limited reasons for refusal. However, we can add conditions on relevant grounds to:
- preserve the local environment or local amenity
- prevent and/or reduce the impact on road safety or free flow of traffic
- preserve a site of archaeological, historic interest and nature conservation value
Conditions have to be agreed with HS2 Ltd and cannot replicate/ modify controls already in place.
Schedule 4: temporary highways works
HS2 temporary works include road closures, alterations and diversion of any highway. Examples of temporary works could include:
- temporary accesses
- site access signing
- details of traffic management
- junction improvements
Temporary works regarding HS2 refers to the duration of construction of the railway which can be in the region of 10 years in some cases.
If these works were included within HS2 Act then HS2/their contractors just have to consult with us. We have 3 working days to respond.
If these temporary works were not in the deposited plans then they would have to gain consent from us. We have 28 days to approve and we cannot unreasonably withhold consent. The limited grounds are that we may have regard to road safety and free flow of traffic only. If we do not respond in the 28 days then application is treated as being approved as submitted.
Schedule 4: permanent highways works
Examples of include new permanent accesses, construction or realignment of roads.
If these works were included within the HS2 Act then HS2/their contractors would need to seek approval within 28 days. If not shown on deposited plans, then consent would be sought (within 28 days)
As with the temporary works, if we do not respond during the time period then it is treated as being approved/ granted. Again, we can object but only on grounds of local amenity, road safety or free flow of traffic we can also request further, more detailed information.
Engagement with local communities
HS2 and its contractors hold information events (online during times of lockdown) for local residents.
You can view the details of proposed construction works and road closures (external website). This website includes links which give people the opportunity to contact HS2 with questions and comments about individual works.
We advise residents when Schedule 17 applications have been submitted by HS2. We do not consult residents about these applications as deemed planning consent has already been granted by the HS2 Act of Parliament. Notifications of applications are sent to neighbours in close proximity to the application site.
Some additional works not covered by the HS2 Act of Parliament require planning permission. When these applications are received, we consult neighbours in the usual way.
Funding for communities affected by HS2 and HS2 construction
A fund of £40m was established by HS2 to bring any benefit to the disrupted communities along the Phase 1 route of construction of HS2. This includes The Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and The Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF). You can apply or see details of local projects that have already been funded on the groundwork website.
Buckinghamshire has been allocated £3.95m as part of the HS2 Road Safety Fund (RSF), which is designed to a create a legacy of road safety improvement for communities along the HS2 route that have been or will be impacted by HS2 construction.
For more information, visit our HS2 Road Safety Fund webpage.
HS2 in Buckinghamshire
Find out what is happening in the local area
The latest HS2 project updates are included on HS2 Commonplace and you can also sign up for email notifications.
Live information on roadworks, including HS2 works
Buckinghamshire Council has been working with Natural England, Chilterns Conservation Board and local parish councils to raise concerns, challenge and seek clarification from HS2 Ltd as to the number of trees to be removed at Leather Lane, near Great Missenden. A presentation on Site Clearance at Leather Lane was shared with us by HS2 contractors’
A working group has been set-up to provide a forum for communities affected by either HS2 and/or East-West Rail. For more information, please visit our HS2 & EWR Working Group webpage.
Monitoring HS2 construction vehicle activity
Buckinghamshire Council has purchased three mobile CCTV cameras which will be used to monitor HS2 construction traffic and the associated effects on our roads over the next few years. Two of these have been funded by an HS2 assurance and the third from the HS2 Road Safety Fund.
Information about how, where and what they will be used for can be found on the Mobile CCTV camera deployment page.
Use of the cameras is governed by Buckinghamshire Council's Electronic Surveillance Policy which reflects all relevant UK national legislation and guidance.
HS2 construction work during the COVID-19 outbreak
HS2 contractors can continue construction work during the COVID-19 outbreak by adhering to Government guidance on social distancing and travelling to work.
HS2 Ltd is reviewing its works on its construction sites in line with Government and Public Health England (PHE) advice on dealing with Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Government’s current COVID-19 strategy says that construction activity can continue where it complies with this guidance.
More information on this at Public Health England Guidance.
HS2 Ltd states that where its construction firms “are confident that they can operate in line with PHE and industry guidance, sites have continued to operate, and construction works are continuing to be undertaken”.
If a member of the public wishes to enquire about HS2 working practices or make a complaint about contractor behaviour, they should call the HS2 Helpdesk in the first instance. It is open 24 hours a day, on freephone 08081 434 434 or email at HS2enquiries@hs2.org.uk
HS2 mitigation projects
A full list of HS2 mitigation projects are available on our road projects and improvements page.