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Disappointing start to HS2 Community Forums

Thursday 22 March 2012

Disappointing start to HS2 Community Forums

The Chilterns Conservation Board has attended the first two Community Forums organised by HS2 Ltd in the Chilterns and was disappointed by the poor organisation and lack of clarity on what they will cover. The meetings, held in Chalfont St Giles on 19th March and Wendover on 20th March, are the first of regular events at which invited local organisations will discuss details of the HS2 line. The Conservation Board is still fundamentally opposed to the construction of the rail line through the Chilterns AONB.

Community Forums have been set up by HS2 Ltd along the whole of the planned high speed rail line between London and Birmingham. Despite their name only invited organisations can attend, they are not open to the public. Representatives from the Board who attended the Chalfont St Giles and Wendover events this week found them to be characterised by a lack of clarity on what the Community Forums will actually cover. Many of the HS2 Ltd staff who were present are quite new in post and could not confirm how the meetings should work or even if they would be attending future ones.

Local authorities boycotted the meetings following HS2 Ltd’s refusal to postpone them until after an HS2 summit being organised by local councils in Aylesbury on 19th April takes place.

The Conservation Board along with the other organisations attending pressed HS2 Ltd to widen the membership of the forums and to make them open to the public but no agreement was reached on that. There was also no clear answer to questions about the extent to which the route of the rail line and its design could be discussed.

Many points were made about how the meetings could be better organised in future. There is an emerging feeling amongst the groups who attended the Chilterns events that there should be one Community Forum for the Chilterns, not two. The next meetings will take place in May and they are likely to be held bimonthly.

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