1. ITV Report

Controversial plans for HS2 rail link under fire

The proposed route would link London with Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds, Photo:

Vital information has been omitted from a 50,000-page environmental statement on the controversial High Speed 2 railway, which will connect London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, a former Cabinet minister has claimed.

Cheryl Gillan said the already too brief 56-day consultation should be extended because of the failings made by HS2 Ltd to properly run the process.

And speaking during the weekly business statement in the Commons, Mrs Gillan raised further concerns people would only be allowed to petition against the unusual hybrid bid planned to authorise the project in law if they replied to the consultation by January 24.

Because the HS2 project impacts both on the country as a whole and specific individuals or businesses, the law providing for it will be drafted using hybrid bill procedures, which create rights of petition and consultation not typically available.

Addressing Commons Leader Andrew Lansley, Chesham and Amersham MP Mrs Gillan said: "Are you aware it has transpired information has been left off the memory sticks, the online copies and the hard copies of the environmental consultation material?

"Environmental groups are not able to get hold of vertical profile maps with contours, which are particularly important in light of the decision to dump a million cubic metres of spoil in the area of outstanding natural beauty.

"Are you also aware there is now a report in the Lichfield Mercury that says HS2 Ltd had confirmed individuals will only be able to petition against the hybrid Bill on HS2 if they have responded to the environmental consultation by January 24?

"I don't believe that can be true because that would have been slipped in and tried to short circuit and reduce the amount of people petitioning against HS2, but can you look into this report and tell me whether it is true?

"Could you also tell me how we can get this consultation period extended after all these administrative failures by HS2 Ltd and the Government?"

Mr Lansley replied: "I will, in order to be as helpful as I can.

"I will look into the issues and coordinate with the Transport Secretary and ensure we reply to you and lay a copy in the library of the House so MPs can look, in particular, at what the hybrid Bill procedure will be."