Safeguarded land on axed Birmingham to Crewe HS2 leg 'can now be developed for alternative use'

Artist impression of a HS2 train.
In October last year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak axed plans for phase 2a beyond the West Midlands, to save money. Credit: HS2 Ltd

Restrictions preventing the development of land earmarked for a now-scrapped section of HS2 have been lifted, Transport Secretary Mark Harper has announced.

The Cabinet Minister has ended safeguarding for Phase 2a between the West Midlands and Crewe - meaning land on the route can now be developed in a way that would have conflicted with building HS2.

In October last year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak axed plans for phase 2a beyond the West Midlands, to save money.

New estimations shared with MPs last week revealed that HS2 could cost as much £66.6 billion to build between London and Birmingham - eight to 10 billion pounds more than predicted in 2019 prices.

In a written statement to Parliament, Mark Harper stated: “I am today formally lifting the safeguarding directions for High Speed 2 phase 2a.

“In doing so, this Government is delivering on a commitment made in the command paper Network North: transforming British transport, published on October 4 2023.

“Safeguarding is a planning tool used to protect the land needed for the HS2 scheme from potential conflicting development.

“The safeguarding directions require the local authority to consult with HS2 Ltd on planning applications within the safeguarded land.

“By lifting safeguarding, the Government provides certainty to people along the former route of HS2 and makes development easier, as HS2 Ltd will no longer object to proposed development in the area to which the safeguarding directions had applied.”

Phase 2a of HS2 was scrapped just north of Birmingham Curzon Street, to Crewe. Credit: PA Images

Mr Harper confirmed that “work is underway” on lifting safeguarding for Phase 2b land between Crewe and Manchester, which is expected to happen by the summer.

The process of selling properties acquired by HS2 Ltd that are no longer needed “will begin shortly”, he added.

Safeguarding will continue around the planned Handsacre Link in Lichfield, Staffordshire, where the high speed railway will connect with the West Coast Main Line.

Mr Harper also announced the closure of three schemes which provided financial support to homeowners on or near the Phase 2 routes.

The Need to Sell programme remains open to support residents “until the blighting effect of HS2 has fully receded”, the Cabinet minister wrote.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Conservative Party Conference "I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project." Credit: PA Images

The northern leg of HS2 was scrapped by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday 4 October.

Announcing the move in his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, he said: "The right thing to do when the facts change, is to have the courage to change direction. So I am ending this long running saga - I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project."

The prime minister said £36 billion previously ring-fenced for a high speed rail line from London to Manchester would instead be allocated to infrastructure projects to provide better transport links across the north of England.

He said that means "every region outside of London will receive the same or more government investment than they would have done under HS2".

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