Delaying or scrapping HS2 would reduce investment into the UK, cause major lost opportunities to grow the economy and deepen the North-South divide, one of the nation’s largest property organisations has warned.
The London Property Alliance (LPA), which includes more than 400 of the leading real estate advisers and developers in the capital, has urged the independent review into the high speed rail project to back the scheme in its entirety, including the eastern leg to Yorkshire.
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The LPA said abandoning or scaling back HS2 would lead to “significant ramifications” for the already fragile construction industry and property developers view the rail project as having the potential to create a “groundswell of infrastructure”.
The claims are made in a letter to Douglas Oakervee, the man currently chairing an independent review of the rail scheme.
The letter, seen by The Yorkshire Post and signed by Craig McWilliam, the chief executive of Grosvenor Great Britain and Ireland, said confidence in investing in the UK was at a “critical juncture” owing to the uncertainty over Brexit and backing HS2 would send a positive message to both national and international investors.
The letter also questions previous business cases which did not include information regarding the increase in land-use changes when considering the rail scheme’s economic impact.
As a result, the HS2 project is, Mr McWilliam writes, “viewed only as a railway when, in reality, infrastructure projects of this scale are both instigators and enablers of regeneration and economic growth across large swathes of the country”.
Mr McWilliam told The Yorkshire Post the property industry is unified for infrastructure improvements, in contrast with what he called “some of the political rhetoric seeking to pitch a battle between the North and South”.
He added: “Infrastructure investment is one of the main tools at the Government’s disposal to support growth, and if funding is secured for projects like HS2, it will unlock private sector investment at a scale which will make a tangible difference to lives of people both north and south.”
There has been speculation the Oakervee Review will recommend scrapping the eastern leg of HS2 to Sheffield and Leeds. But Martin McKervey, the Sheffield Property Association’s chairman, said this would be akin to “trying to grow the UK economy with one hand tied behind your back”.
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that the review panel was considering whether to recommend modifying the route to directly link Leeds and Manchester, rather than a split route east and west at Birmingham. Sources said it would save £10bn and cut travel times from Leeds to Manchester to just 20 minutes.