Consultation on the route of HS2 through South Yorkshire will not be reopened despite the Government admitting a comparison of housing demolition figures used to help justify altering the line’s direction in 2016 were wrong by at least 40 per cent.
Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron had written to Transport Minister Paul Maynard to request the public consultation on the route to be reopened following the Department for Transport revealing that a previous claim that altering the route away from a now-scrapped station at Meadowhall to a route close to the M18 motorway through Rotherham and Doncaster would result in a 81 per cent reduction in the number of properties eligible for compensation was incorrect and had been published due to a “drafting error”.
The note said the real number is a 41 per cent reduction but added the updated figure does not take account of HS2’s Need to Sell scheme, which allows people with a “compelling reason” to sell their house to the Government and is judged on a case-by-case basis.
Mr Barron said the original consultation is “not fit for purpose” and it is “imperative” a new one is ordered.
But the Department for Transport has said the error does not affect the decision which considers the M18 route to be superior.
A DfT spokesperson said: “HS2 will be the backbone of our rail network. Developing the M18 route will mean improved journeys to Leeds, York and the North East and direct connections into northern city centres, supporting the Northern Powerhouse ambition.
“Although a drafting error was made in the Phase 2b Route Decision Command Paper, this did not affect the Secretary of State’s decision, which took into account the actual number of demolitions and impacts on properties on the route. We continue to work closely with all those affected to get the best outcome for everyone involved.”
Officials insist despite the change, the route alteration will still result in 90 fewer demolitions than what was originally planned. The official figures state that it will be necessary to demolish 51 properties that would directly be on the line of the M18 route, compared to 141 on the originally-planned Meadowhall route.
The M18 route demolition estimate includes 16 properties on the partially-built Shimmer Estate in Mexborough - but anti-HS2 campaigners have argued those figures should include the full 216 properties originally planned to be built at the Shimmer estate.
The DfT says the new route is around £1bn cheaper than the Meadowhall plan. While the DfT believes there is no case for reopening consultation on the line of the route, later this year there will be a consultation on its environmental impact and potential mitigation measures.
Mr Barron’s letter to Mr Maynard said: “Your department had to admit that their figures for the number of houses affected by the proposed HS2 route were out by over 40 per cent. When the route was announced both HS2 and your department based a huge amount of emphasis on the fact the M18 route would be less harmful on the basis of these figures. You have now admitted these figures were completely wrong which I believe completely undermines the case you were trying to build.
“Research done by community groups has shown the amount of properties to be affected to be much higher than the official figures. HS2 has constantly referred to this information as incorrect but refused to fully explain how they came to their figures. I think now is the time for a fully independent property count in order to get an accurate view of which properties will be affected.
“In the correction, you also admitted the figures used do not include the Need to Sell scheme. Therefore you can have no way of predicting how many people will be affected or able to apply.
“Both of these points completely undermine the whole housing case that was put forward and I believe this creates a huge hole in the case for moving away from the initial Meadowhall plan. This whole saga has highlighted many of the problems that both my constituents and I have been raising for months.
“I believe it is imperative that the public consultation is now reopened, as we have seen so many changes and backtracks since it happened that many now view it as not fit for purpose.”