Residents promised more consultation over HS2 concerns

The government has agreed to further consult with Shropshire residents over the impact of HS2 on their communities.

There are concerns that Woore will be blighted by construction traffic from HS2
There are concerns that Woore will be blighted by construction traffic from HS2

Existing transport provision will also be under review as part of the consultation, which seeks to establish how local infrastructure will cope with the huge construction project, and whether the county has adequate road and rail links to allow affected communities to benefit from the new high speed line.

During a debate on the HS2 (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill in the Commons, HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson MP said the government accepted an amendment from the Lords for additional consultation with residents of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire.

The amendment, by Labour frontbencher Lord Rosser, was approved by the Lords in November despite government opposition.

But speaking in the debate Mr Stephenson said accepting the amendment was “the right thing to do”.

He added: “I am listening, and I will not stand in the way of the opportunity to listen more through further consultation.”

Labour’s shadow railways minister Tan Dhesi MP thanked the government for acknowledging “that the bill did not go far enough” to ensure that the voices of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire were heard.

He said: “Residents of those local areas will have their daily lives impacted by the ensuing construction, yet many will see no material transport benefit.

“Under-investment in transport in those three counties brought about by a decade of underfunding and austerity means links to the HS2 line are simply insufficient.

“Time and again, the residents of Staffordshire, Shropshire and Cheshire are promised investment from the government, but they have consistently failed to deliver.

“Oswestry, a town in Shropshire, has a population of almost 20,000, yet no train station. That is not an isolated example.

“Labour’s amendment will minimise disruption from the project and make sure that all three counties benefit by launching a consultation with the good people who know the needs of these counties best – local residents.

“Consultation thus far has been poor, yet it was a key promise from the government and from HS2. Many have voiced their concerns.

“For example, in the village of Woore in Shropshire, members of the local parish council have repeatedly been told that their point of contact has changed. Just recently, they have been transferred to their fifth official.

“On an issue that will impact their daily lives for years, that is simply unacceptable.”

North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, who opposes HS2, said Woore was set to be hugely impacted by construction traffic, with an estimated 300 HGVs passing through the village a day.

Mr Paterson said: “That road is completely inadequate as it stands, and I take my hat off to the parish council and Mr Cowey, the chairman, for battling for those who live in Woore.

“It is now really urgent, and I welcome the fact that the government have endorsed and will adopt these amendments, because we have to move rapidly.”

Mr Paterson thanked the minister for adopting the amendment and asked him to “absolutely promise” Woore residents that 33 planned mitigation measures “will be financed by HS2 and will be implemented before those 300 trucks a day start pounding down the narrow lane and past that footpath that crosses the road three times”.

Mr Stephenson responded: “I am more than happy to commit to meeting (Mr Paterson) to discuss the challenges in that area, as well as the undertakings and assurances that have been given, to ensure that we continue to mitigate where we can the impact on his local residents.”

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