Council to petition Government on HS2 over ‘height of planned line’ and ‘tranquility’

South Northamptonshire Council has raised five main objections
South Northamptonshire Council has raised five main objections

South Northamptonshire Council is to petition the Governmnet over plans for the HS2 rail project.

A meeting of South Northamptonshire Council’s (SNC) Full Council yesterday saw a decision to petition call for the Government’s Select Committee to consider changes to elements of the High Speed (HS2) Bill because of noise standards; visual impact and intrusion; local design standards; construction issues and the height of line.

The council will also petition in regard to specific locations including the A43 fly-over at Brackley and the impact on the tranquillity of the district at key locations.

The authority has already agreed in spring 2012 to make £100,000 of its reserves available for work on preparing objection.

Councillor Rupert Fordham, portfolio holder for economic development and regeneration, said: “It is really important that Parliament is made aware of the impact of HS2 and the strength of feeling against it, and that if it proceeds there are realistic proposals of mitigation in place.

“We are committed to continue to help local residents and businesses who will be affected by the planned route, and the petition will. we hope, go some way to help reduce the impact on so many peoples’ lives and livelihoods.”

Much of this objection preparation work has been done in along with 18 other councils across the south-east of England and the Midlands who joined to form the 51m alliance, which is named after the original cost in millions to each English constituency.

The money allocated by each member of the alliance has helped fund the independent technical and legal consultancy that was needed to present an effective case for the opposition to Government and Parliament.

In July 2013 the Council published a comprehensive response to the draft environmental statement produced by HS2 Ltd in May 2013, and expressed many reservations on the environmental impact of the scheme.

South Northants Council has ‘Locus Standi’ (in other words the right to appear before a court or similar body) as it represents all of those affected within the district. By way of protecting both resident and taxpayers within the district, the council says, the key consideration is to only petition on matters where it might be seen to be ‘reasonable’ to expect the promoters to change the Bill.

In November 2013 the HS2 Phase 1 Hybrid Bill, to authorise the construction of HS2, received its first reading in Parliament and the second reading is likely to take place later this month or early May 2014

• The petition’s five main themes are:

-Noise standards: the current guidance is that noise mitigation is not considered necessary where average Decibel levels are below 50dBA. In short, an urban area will receive mitigation where noise levels are anticipated to rise from, for example 45dBA to 51dBA, whereas a rural area, such as South Northamptonshire could see levels rise from 25dBA to 49dBA without any mitigation. Further, that suggested night-time maximum decibel levels (dB Max) are at that which may provoke sleep disruption. Hence, petitioning to achieve a drop in one or more of these levels is suggested.

-Visual impact and intrusion: the current scheme proposes the use of consistent and largely ‘urban’ design cues for infrastructure such as roads (off-road access and on-road re-alignments), viaducts and culverts. It is suggested that SNC petitions on the use of designs more appropriate to a rural setting.

-Local Design Standards: as above, the current scheme proposes the use of consistent and largely ‘urban’ design cues with no specific requirement to ‘integrate’ the design into the natural setting. To support a more generic ‘rural’ design principle, it is recommended that SNC petitions on the specific use of locally occurring and present existing design cues to complement local-built and natural heritage and respect the designated conservation areas

-Construction Issues: the current guidance is, the council says, generally vague with regards to both construction traffic routes and site access. Petitioning on this issue could seek commitments on which roads would and would not be used and the specific times at which compounds and construction sites would be accessed. With respect to construction traffic, any potential petition would need to seek advice from (and be aligned with) Northamptonshire County Council as the designated highways authority

-Height of Line: the current proposals restrict horizontal deflections of the line (i.e. changes to the exact route with respect to east or west). However, vertical deflection (i.e. changes to the height of the line) is effectively unrestricted. Petitioning on this matter would seek to restrict the variation to a set number of metres above or below the current proposal.