8th June 2021
Thank you again for your time on Thursday 3 June 2021 regarding the decision by BC to determine the HS2 Wendover Dean Schedule 17 (3) Application.
We are naturally disappointed that BC has felt it necessary to determine this Application, but understand the Political pressure that BC is being put under to approve what is self-evidently an unsatisfactory Application and welcome your confirmation that you will write to the Minister voicing that opinion. We would be pleased to receive a copy in due course.
There remains the matter of housekeeping. There are numerous administrative errors in the Application which we highlighted in our various letters to BC, which, for the record must be corrected. Indeed, the Southdowns report suggests that the NDR should be resubmitted with its errors corrected and post-submission supplied information included. You have also highlighted additional matters which we believe should also be included in the file/pack, together with our and your letters and attachments for elimination of doubt as to the agreements that you have made with HS2 Ltd. We know that even when written agreements have been made with HS2 Ltd, they are routinely ignored by HS2 and DfT, but at least if the record is straight to begin with, others may later be in a better position to understand the extent of the inadequacy of this Application as it stands now. That HS2 Ltd are citing ‘slowing the trains’ as a noise mitigation option is not as convincing as it might seem, as they have previously stated that this was not an option. You might ask the SoS Transport for his considered opinion on this very item as we would be very interested in his reaction, so I suspect would you!
In the circumstances BC might feel it appropriate to ask HS2 Ltd to delay any further HS2 Sch 17 Applications until such time as the deficiencies in the current Application are corrected and BC is confident it has the skills and capacity to review and assess future applications satisfactorily. We would suggest that the current deficiencies should be required to be corrected in 4 weeks, otherwise it might be assumed that BC approval of inadequate and incomplete applications is the de facto norm.
There are several technical matters in this area which will continue to be discussed as the design matures and track and rolling-stock noise performance is developed. There may be a time when the myriad assumptions that the modelled predictions are based on unravel, and the risk that BC has taken on behalf of the residents starts to be realised. In this situation, it would be useful to explore what options BC has available to rescind the determination where remedial design or re-construction action is deemed so detrimental to the ‘greater good’, that HS2 Ltd’s Assurances, agreements and promises are set aside, despite your opinion that ‘the trains will stop for however long remedial action requires’. We would ask you to confirm that you have an Assurance from the Minister that The HS2 Act 2017, Sch 17 paragraph 9 (4) (b) does not prejudice the LPA’s ability to refuse a ‘Bringing into Use’ Application when an Application has been previously approved under Sch 17 paragraph (3).
The Southdowns Report Section 6 describes various technical areas that should be addressed in preparation for assessing Sch 17(9) Applications. We believe that these should not be ‘parked’, and resurrected too late for any corrective activity to be initiated, or when pressure to ‘Approve’ is at its greatest again. Assurance 1026 is effectively derogated by your decision. It is illogical to design a control (noise) measure without applying model uncertainty until after the design is finalised and both Assurances 1025 and 1026 require this to be done during design and construction. Indeed, HS2 Ltd could now or in future, declare an uncertainty of +/- 10dB LAmax to cover the full envelope of results from monitoring, without having to apply uncertainty to the designed mitigation measures. In effect, by not insisting that Assurances 1026 and 1025 are met in full, BC has effectively destroyed the work of the LANC in this area.
Finally, we touched on Information Paper F4, as did Southdowns. At present after 7 years of development this paper is inadequate in every respect; it doesn’t provide any useful information. Southdowns suggests that F4 monitoring during pre-operational test and commissioning is implicit in the paper, whereas HS2 Ltd believe it starts once train operations commence. IP F4 is not clear on that or on whether independent oversight of operational noise monitoring should be included. You only have to look at the excoriating comments from the recent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report, to understand that the HS2 Ltd policy of ‘say no, say nothing, lie’ is still alive and well after 10 years, for your answer. It is absolutely essential that independent oversight is embodied into this process and Southdowns must be a prime candidate for this work.
We will continue to work with BC in good faith and feel that improved communication between us is essential in ensuring our residents are as best protected as they can be given the situation being faced.
Sheila Bulpett ( Chair Wendover Parish Council)
The reply from Buckinghamshire Council can be read here.