‘Engage with the enemy’ MP tells HS2 opponents

David Lidington
David Lidington

AYLESBURY MP David Lidington has held talks with two pivotal figures in the pro-HS2 movement.

The Europe minister met with transport secretary Justine Greening and HS2’s chief engineer Andrew McNaughton – and he has been encouraged by the feedback they have both given him.

He also believes that despite widespread anger over the principle of HS2, people do now need to start ‘engaging’ with HS2 Ltd to secure ‘the best possible outcome’ if the scheme does go ahead.

He said: “I was pleased I was able to meet the Secretary of State as it allowed me to express to her directly the strength of feeling in the constituency over her department’s proposals and confirm that I will continue to put forward the arguments from my constituents that the scheme should be abandoned.

“We also discussed compensation and mitigation and I emphasised that a generous and comprehensive compensation scheme should be established as soon as possible.

“On mitigation, I was encouraged by her promise, in her words, to work ‘extra special hard’ to limit the environmental impact of HS2 on local residents.

“Ms Greening told me that aircraft noise was a huge issue for her constituents being under the Heathrow flight path, so she could understand the strength of feeling in Buckinghamshire.”

He said that information on which properties will be the subject of compulsory purchase orders should be available by the end of this year and the consultation on compensation is due to start after the local government elections in May.

At the meeting with Professor McNaughton, Mr Lidington raised concern about the impact of the route through Aylesbury Vale.

He said: “One impression that I got from Professor McNaughton and his colleagues was that they are keen to listen to local people on how they want mitigation measures to look and what sort of mitigation measures could be implemented.

“Of course, this does not mean that HS2 would accept every suggestion that was put forward but nevertheless I felt this was encouraging.

“If any constituents have any suggestions they would like me to put forward to HS2, please let me know.

“HS2 also confirmed that many other issues such as the status of the road network following construction will also be discussed at a local level.

“This reinforced my belief that while I completely understand that many local people are opposed to this scheme in principle, and though I have argued that case strongly myself, it is also important that local communities begin the process of engaging with HS2 on what they consider the best possible outcome if the scheme does go ahead.”

Mr Lidington said that while there is still a ‘long way to go’ before HS2 is approved, he believes there is little chance of the scheme being defeated in parliament.

“I have to say to you that if there were a completely free vote in the Commons now, with no guidance from party leaders, HS2 would be supported by a very large majority.”