Readers may already be aware of the unexpected intrusions by HS2 Ltd at Fairford Leys in October.
Here are some extracts from the 51m website posted on 10 October:
Back in January Aylesbury MP, David Lidington, slammed the ‘consistently poor and incompetent engagement from HS2 Ltd’ while addressing fellow MPs in Westminster. He was appearing in front of the HS2 select committee. At the time he said: “I started by talking about the consistently poor and incompetent engagement from HS2 Ltd with the thousands of constituents whose lives have been affected by the line. It will come as no surprise to local people that I described this process as shambolic and frustrating.”
If Mr Lidington had thought that his criticism would have produced a change in approach from HS2 Ltd, events of last week suggested little had changed. At Fairford Leys in Aylesbury, HS2 Ltd contractors arrived to start work near to the old Hartwell House. They ripped up a hedge to make an access point for a lorry full of equipment to drive into the field. There was some doubt regarding whether permission had yet been granted for this to take place. There was also uncertainty as to whether residents had been notified beforehand.
A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd claimed letters were hand-delivered to around 150 homes to explain the work and how it would affect roads. But judging by the shock on the part of those living nearby, there was little evidence that prior notice had been given. The incident represents another sorry chapter in the organisation’s dealings with those affected by the high-speed line. It is difficult to discern any improvement since the local MP’s scathing words at the beginning of the year. It also comes days after the publication of the HS2 Residents’ Commissioner’s fifth report into communication activities. Clearly, the Commissioner, Deborah Fazan, has her work cut out to change an organisation where community engagement appears to be no more than a box ticking exercise.
Those whose lives will be devastated by HS2, will expect a marked improvement in this vital aspect of the scheme by the time Ms Fazan publishes her next report.
Robert Duggan, chair of Wendover Parish Council, wrote to the Community Engagement Officer, Charlotte Hewes, for reassurance that no such incident would occur in Wendover. Here is the reply:
Please be assured that HS2 is taking this incident very seriously and we are currently carrying out a ‘lessons learned’ review to try and prevent these types of issues occurring in the future. We have an internal Ground Investigations framework which helps govern our communications and engagement to communities and we are looking at how we can improve the implementation of this in certain complex situations.
To date we have carried out various packages of Ground Investigation work along the proposed route of the line, where communities have been successfully notified in line with the framework, and works have been carried out without incident. In this particular case, 150 letters went out to residents in the immediate vicinity of the works. These were delivered by-hand, but ideally we would have been able to provide notification at an earlier stage.
HS2 is committed to improving the quality of its engagement, and we will continue to learn lessons from occasions where things haven’t gone to plan, and try to make sure that new methods of working are put in place and followed.
Editor: Wendover News has since learnt that the 150 letters were erroneously sent to a part of Fairford Leys NOT affected by these groundworks. The residents affected only found out when the contractors arrived.
Landowner Bob Lewis replied to Charlotte's email:
Allow me to point out that HS2 Ltd had not learned lessons from the past. As you know, because I gave you the reference after you joined the Staff of HS2 Ltd, I had an incident in March 2016 of Trespass. Contractors on behalf of HS2 Ltd trespassed on to our land, and marked up a GI site. At first, the Management of HS2 Ltd even tried to deny that it was they who had trespassed!
That led to a formal complaint from myself, and eventually to a hand-wringing apology from your former CEO. He stated that the incident in my case showed up flawed procedures, which had led the Management of HS2 Ltd to introduce a new system.
Words are very cheap, are they not?
Clearly no lessons have been learned since March, by the Management of HS2 Ltd. The CEO (in March) has departed the scene, and the rest of you carry on in exactly the same way.