Friday, November 1, 2013

News: HS2 has benefits but brings headaches too


A High Speed Rail (HS2) line is set to bring massive economic benefits, but it will affect a number of important development sites in the Sheffield city region.

HS2 is the Government's £50 billion high speed rail project that aims to provide extra capacity to handle increasing demand. By 2033, a South Yorkshire station will be on the proposed route from London to Leeds via Birmingham and the East Midlands. With trains travelling at speeds of up to 250 mph, and each with up to 1,100 seats per train, passengers will be able to get from Leeds in 17 minutes, Birmingham in 38 minutes and from London in one hour and nine minutes.

Yesterday MPs voted to approve funding to prepare for the project (The only South Yorkshire MPs to vote were Nick Clegg, Clive Betts and Angela Smith who all voted aye.)

A report by KPMG recently estimated that, with a proposed station at Meadowhall, Rotherham could increase its annual economic output by between £131.7m and £272.12m due to the investment in HS2 and the re-design of the existing railway infrastructure. HS2 could add between £0.5 billion and £0.9 billion each year to the economic output of South Yorkshire.

Local council leaders and board members of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) are backing plans for HS2 in the Sheffield city region. James Newman, chairman of the SCR LEP, said: "The LEP Board is unanimously in support of the Government's plans to include a High Speed Rail station in the Sheffield City Region.

"Furthermore, the LEP Board strongly believes that the speedy delivery of Phase 2 of HS2 is fundamental to the future growth of UK Plc. HS2 will accelerate economic growth and create thousands of jobs for City Regions outside of London.

"The LEP Board recognises that HS2 is a once in a century opportunity – which is why we want to give our economic experts the chance to gather and carefully study all the information before we send our response to Government."

In a draft response to the consultation, the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), on behalf of the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) and Sheffield City Region is raising a number of issues regarding the route, the station location and compensation for commercial properties. It is also asking for a commitment to improving local connectivity so that the whole region can benefit from HS2.

Regarding the impact of the route the response states that: "The proposed route impacts significantly on a number of key SCR strategic sites, which have Local Enterprise Zone status, placing uncertainty and blight on these key development locations."

The greatest impacts are likely to be on eight of the 12 sites designated for Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECAs) (offering up-front tax relief for major capital investments) and discussions are ongoing between the SCR executive team and the Government to identify and designate alternative land to replace that "taken" by HS2.
One of the affected areas is the massive Waverley development in Rotherham where a 1.5km viaduct would be required over the River Rother floodplain and the Chesterfield to Rotherham railway. The viaduct would typically be 8m above ground level. The route would then pass onto an embankment up to 7m high. A new bridge will be required for Poplar Way to cross over the route.

The route would pass through the Waverley site and would enter a 23m deep cutting to pass beneath the Parkway at the Morrison's supermarket and, twice, under Europa Link. The route would emerge from the cutting and would then pass on an embankment along the site of the former Tinsley Marshalling Yard towards the station at Meadowhall.

A report put forward by Sheffield Council as part of its continued support for the station to be located at Victoria, closer to Sheffield city centre, showed that: "Rotherham supports the proposed Meadowhall Station option that has been presented by Government and has significant concerns about the adverse impact that the route of a potential loop to access a Victoria City Centre option would have on the strategic development sites at Waverley, including the Advanced Manufacturing Park and Waverley New Community."

Indeed, a recent update to Rotherham Council, shows that the proposed HS2 rail link potentially passing through or near Waverley, and the current housing market climate, is already creating some anxiety with the developers, Harworth Estates and housebuilders on the site; Barratt Homes, Harron Homes and Taylor Wimpey Homes.

The anxiety relates to the trigger points in the Section 106 Agreement for the developers having to commit £5.5m for new schools and could see reduction in the overall number of houses being built on the site.

The report stated that: "Given these uncertainties and apprehensions, Harworth Estates were keen to discuss the Section 106 agreement currently in place with a view to keeping the site viable with a revised 3,598 dwellings on the site as opposed to the 4,000 original dwellings."

A recent impact assessment by Jacobs for Rotherham Council shows that other Rotherham development sites affected by the proposed HS2 route and associated 200m buffer include Woodhouse Link on the site of the former Laycast works at Fence and the nearby former Beighton Colliery site. Land off Europa Link at Sheffield Business Park and land at Meadowbank Road, close to Junction 34 of the M1 are also identified.

In a recent interview with the Yorkshire Post, Philip Hollister, chairman of local developer, JF Finnegan described how the proposed HS2 rail route is one of its biggest headaches as it runs through two of its sites – Woodhouse Link and development land at Sheffield Business Park.

Hollister told the paper: "We'd like it moved slightly. It runs right through the middle of a building we've just built, which Home Decor occupies, at Woodhouse Link.

"You get compensation, but at the moment the proposal sterilises the rest of the site."

HS2 website

Images: Jacobs / Harworth Estates


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