As the clocks spring forward in 2022, let’s take a moment to look back on the key HS2 developments so far this year.

24 January 2022

saw the first reading of the High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill in the House of Commons, in respect of the construction and maintenance of Phase 2b. The Bill, as expected, grants the powers to build and maintain the HS2 network, and compulsorily acquire interests in the requisite land. Ancillary of course to this, powers are granted in respect of carrying out the works required, for example in respect of altering rights of way and diverting highways. A date for the Bill’s second reading, where the Bill will be debated by MPs, is yet to be announced.

We then jumped into February, which made headlines not just in respect of the ending of Covid-19 restrictions. We saw the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper on 2 February 2022, which confirmed that the UK Government will publish a HS2 Local Growth Action Plan in respect of Phase One and Phase 2a stations (expected later in the year), and the release of the Government response to the 2021 HS2 land and property review proposals consultation (which ran from 19 May to 30 June 2021) on 8 February 2022. Of note, the Government response:

  • Details the Government’s decision to move forward with the implementation of the proposed Streamlined Residential Blight (SRB) Scheme, which is intended to reduce timescales and minimise disruption as against the existing Statutory Blight and Express Purchase schemes. It will only apply to residential properties that are on Phases 2a and 2b of the HS2 route, and will require two independent Red Book valuations with the potential for a third valuation to be necessary should those obtained be more than 10% apart. It will also offer a fixed disturbance payment of £7,000; and
  • Sets out the Government’s intention that a third type of safeguarding be introduced in respect of airspace. This is certainly a helpful development given that at the time the consultation began, safeguarding was limited to two types - surface and subsurface.  

As businesses navigated a return to the workplace and individuals re-familiarised themselves with their commutes, we also saw the compulsory purchase powers in relation to Phase One come to an end after five years on 23 February 2022. Whilst it has been confirmed that all planned notices have been served by the deadline, work to complete the acquisition of land and settle compensation for those land owners affected continues.

Finally, the Department of Transport published their six monthly report to Parliament on 16 March 2022, which included (but was not limited to) the following updates in respect of the various HS2 phases:

  • Construction will continue over the next six months in respect of Phase One with the launch of the fourth tunnel boring machine in London;
  • The focus for Phase 2a is the progression of environmental and enabling work, including early land acquisitions (presently new ecological sites are being secured with fencing). This phase is anticipated (based on the HS2 Phase 2a Community Newsletter published in February 2022) to be underway until 2024, and is also inclusive of local road improvements to support construction traffic, and the clearing and set up of land needed for construction moving forwards; and
  • Following the introduction of the abovementioned Bill in respect of Phase 2b, the Environmental Statement consultation draws to a close on 31 March 2022.

Evidently, there is much to keep a keen eye on as 2022 develops, particularly the progression of the Phase 2b Bill as we await a scheduled date for the second reading. Once this has been completed, and should the Bill pass the second reading (which it is expected to), those most specially and directly affected by the proposals will have the opportunity to engage with protecting their land / property by submitting a Petition to the House of Commons. 

There have already been significant numbers of petitions lodged against the Bills for Phases 1 and 2a, and Phase 2b is unlikely to be any different, particularly if this comment from the Greater Manchester councils is anything to go by.

If you are concerned that the proposals might impact you (or if indeed you are presently affected), we would be pleased to assist in protecting your position and help navigate the multitude of developments moving forwards.