CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Hillingdon have shown the way to combat HS2 harm

14 August, 2020

HS2: ‘It turns out that suffering may have been unnecessary’

• HS2 has long been allowed to act as a law unto itself.

So well done to Hillingdon Council for recently defeating HS2 Ltd’s haughty and high-handed tactics in court: stopping HS2 from marking its own homework and from causing misery to residents.

Councils like Camden have hitherto allowed HS2 to simply affirm that their plans would meet environmental minimum requirements – covering construction, planning, heritage, and environmental impact – without evaluating whether those claims were correct.

We will keep fighting to stop HS2 altogether, as I and many others have done for a decade.

And as Dee Searle pointed out (Coronavirus renders HS2 scheme an utter nonsense, August 6), the already threadbare economic case for it has gone out of the window thanks to the “new normal” of remote working.

But if the white elephant does go ahead, Hillingdon’s victory could be huge for Camden.

Whereas Camden meekly accepted HS2’s say-so that it was doing enough to reduce local harm, Conservative-run Hillingdon refused to three years ago and has been doggedly fighting it through the courts.

The Court of Appeal has now ruled that councils can’t take HS2 on trust and must make their own assessments of the impact on the local area.

The court said, “The duty imposed upon the authority to take a decision on the merits is non-delegable and must be taken by the authority itself.”

As a member of Camden’s planning committee, I have objected to the legal advice that Camden’s administration gave us when assessing HS2’s application. At every turn Camden’s planners told us that HS2’s claims had to be accepted, but that has proven wrong.

Two weeks ago, the CNJ reported on Sajjad Miah, who could be blinded by HS2 dust, yet he is just one of thousands of people whose lives are blighted by HS2’s cavalier approach and a refusal to make greater and more binding demands.

It turns out that suffering may have been unnecessary, as that impact could have been avoided.

We should all continue to push for HS2 to be stopped altogether, but whatever the outcome, Camden should now use the tools it has at its disposal to reduce its harm.

CLLR OLIVER COOPER
Leader, Camden Conservatives

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