HS2: Severe delays expected, we apologise for any inconvenience
The HS2 decision today has generated a huge amount of controversy with passionate arguments for and against the development over the last few months.
Such is the stuff of planning. It is about making difficult decisions which will impact on people and the environment, but crucially should benefit us as a society.
Inevitably, not all people will be happy with the decision reached.
However within our decision making processes there should be sufficient clarity and transparency so that people can understand the decision set within a managed process of dialogue, consultation and listening.
In particular there should be a clear linkage with other policy approaches that allows people to see the big picture even if they disagree with the final decision.
So let's examine this in more detail.
- There is massive concern about the process by which the route was selected and presented. As such this may present clear opportunities for judicial review. There are concerns that the government did not follow all the set out rules for planning processes as legally required by Environmental Assessment procedures and the Aarhus convention. The issue of initial consultations on the route(s) and assessment of alternatives are key here.
- HS2 will require huge funds for investment involving significant sums of EU money matched by government and private investment. At a time when the UK government is using a veto to isolate itself from the EU with some backbenchers even talking about possible EU withdrawal, there needs to be a clear message about where we stand in the EU for the long term. There patently is not.
- The HS2 case is based on a bigger picture to improve Britain's transport infrastructure. However, the current proposal only includes the London to Birmingham section and not the whole route. This piecemeal approach is unhelpful as surely it is better to see the whole plan and assess the spatial impact on the country in one go. The lack of any spatial plan in the draft National Planning Policy framework represents another missed opportunity to join up the required strands of transport, energy and environmental policy.
- HS2 raises wider issues of social justice and access to rail transport with a premier league approach inherent in HS2. This will leave some areas further disadvantaged in regional growth. The lack of a joined up rail plan for wider network problems within local rail infrastructure and pricing is of concern.
- The case for development uses the need to keep up with the Smits and the Dubois (rest of Europe) as a key argument and it strikes me that we perhaps first should ask what England (and the UK) needs most set within assessments of our own geography, as we are not Germany or France and playing catch up is not always the best strategy.
As HS2 clearly shows planning matters to people and it is vital that in making our policy and plans we pay more attention to the processes we use, particularly the rules of engagement.
Otherwise that Big Society that we hear so much about might derail the end product.