Adaptation of residential properties

High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 8th March 2016.

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(1) The Nominated Undertaker must take all reasonable steps to ensure that residential properties affected by the scheduled works are adapted in order to mitigate severe cumulative impacts of construction.

(2) Mitigation measures should include, but not be limited to—

(a) habitability assessments for—

(i) all homes experiencing noise higher than threshold levels; and

(ii) homes that experience noise to levels within 10% of the noise threshold,

(b) customised noise insulation packages to be agreed by the property owner and local Council prior to installation.

(3) If measures do not sufficiently mitigate the impacts on a property and the property therefore fails a habitability assessment, residents must be rehoused at the cost of HS2.—

This new clause requires the Nominated Undertaker to take steps to mitigate the impact of construction on residential properties. This shall include the installation of suitable noise insulation measures and assessments of the habitability of properties with the requirement to rehouse residents if habitability assessments suggest this is required.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause and explanatory note speak for themselves. The HS2 works will lead to nearby residents feeling a multiplicity of effects that can be described as affecting the habitability of their homes. The overall effects of the construction cannot be isolated into individual impacts, but must be considered together.

On 30 November 2015, Camden Council secured several assurances, including two important ones that could mitigate the impact of construction on residential properties. The first is as follows:

“HS2 Ltd. will develop a package of noise and ventilation measures (to be agreed with the Council) to help protect the 1025 homes identified in HS2 Ltd.’s Environmental Statement that could be significantly affected by HS2 construction noise. The agreed measures should be installed before the noisy HS2 works start.”

The second is:

“HS2 Ltd. will appoint an independent assessor to survey a representative sample of a group of homes likely to be affected by HS2 construction noise”,

in addition to the previously mentioned 1,025 homes identified in the environmental statement. It continues:

“This additional group includes homes in Regent’s Park Estate, Ampthill Estate and the ‘Camden Cutting’ area. Where it can be demonstrated that a property is affected in a similar way to this sample group, an independent survey of the property will be commissioned to decide if measures to offset noise and provide ventilation are necessary.”

With regard to residential disturbance, the HS2 Select Committee stated in its final report:

“Camden is exceptional, and needs special treatment. Many residents are going to have to put up with disturbance on a scale beyond the experience in most other locations.”

The Select Committee gave directions for further mitigation, including that air quality monitoring should

“feed into an assessment of whether rehousing should occur in cases where air quality deteriorates.”

It said that

“an assessment of compliance with noise limits and a survey of health impacts” should be carried out no more than six months after the start of the works, and that HS2 Ltd

“should reconsider rehousing based on the outcome of that survey.”

The Committee recommended that residents should be

“consulted on their preferences for how to moderate the impact of the construction programme” and that HS2 Ltd should

“listen to what residents say about what might help, and respond with more than average diligence.”

The Committee stated:

“The choice of sound insulation and other mitigation measures should be in sympathy with construction and architecture”— including Silsoe House on Park Village East—

“and take fair account of residents’ views on what is visually acceptable.”

The new clause would require that,

“If measures do not sufficiently mitigate the impacts on a property and the property therefore fails a habitability assessment, residents must be rehoused at the cost of HS2.”

The new clause would go some way towards reassuring residents of affected properties that their homes will be adapted to mitigate the severe cumulative impacts that we expect as a consequence of construction. I hope that the Minister will lend the new clause the Government’s support.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We are committed to reducing the disruption to residents that will be caused by the construction of HS2, as far as is reasonably possible. In line with other major construction schemes such as Crossrail and the Thames tideway tunnel, a code of construction practice has been developed. The code sets out the controls that will be applied to mitigate the effects of the construction of HS2 and will be binding on the nominated undertaker. Those controls include the management of construction noise by applying the best practical means.

The code of construction practice identifies where offers of noise insulation or temporary rehousing should be made to residents to ensure that their health and quality of life are not significantly affected by the construction noise. The thresholds for noise insulation were designed with consideration of the relevant British standards relating to noise caused by construction. Any noise insulation measures to be installed in qualifying residential properties will be agreed with the building’s owner or occupier. We do not feel it is appropriate or necessary also to agree such measures with the local authority, unless it owns the building.

The control of construction noise and vibration, and the scope of the noise insulation and temporary rehousing policy, have been a major focus of negotiations between HS2 and the local authorities along the phase 1 route in recent months, particularly in the London Borough of Camden. The negotiations have resulted in additions to the temporary rehousing policy, including additional criteria for identifying cases where offers of temporary rehousing of residents may be necessary. HS2 Ltd has acknowledged the habitability concerns that have been raised by the London Borough of Camden due to the exceptional nature of the construction works in that borough.

In response to those concerns, HS2 Ltd is carrying out a study in the Camden area to establish whether additional properties that do not qualify under the current noise insulation policy would benefit from further mitigation measures. If it is appropriate to do so, HS2 Ltd will use the results of the Camden study to review the criteria for noise mitigation set out in its noise insulation and temporary rehousing policy.

The lead contractors will be contractually required to have an environmental management system, which will include measures and processes for managing noise and vibration during construction, including any steps that will be taken when measured levels are greater than predicted. This process may lead to the provision of further mitigation measures, where appropriate.

Therefore, I believe that all the points made by the hon. Gentleman have been addressed and I hope that the new clause can be withdrawn.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 2:15 pm, 8th March 2016

I am sure that the Minister has taken on board my comments. However, will he clarify something for me? We have talked continuously about mitigations, surveying, further mitigations and temporary rehousing. I hope that I am accounting for him correctly when I say that there is no mention anywhere of permanent rehousing where the noise levels and other disturbances have reached such a pitch of uninhabitability that that would be necessary. I am not sure that that point ever came across in his comments.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Well, I can think of one fairly high-profile resident of Camden whose property has been purchased, not because it is needed for the construction of the railway but because the level of disruption in the area just in front of his particular house would be unacceptable. So there have been cases where we have purchased properties when the construction intensity would have made them uninhabitable in the long term. However, when there are peaks in construction or particularly noisy activities are taking place, there is the option to offer paid accommodation during that peak construction period, and if necessary we will use that power.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the Minister for that. I was not really thinking about the Mayor’s father; I was thinking about other people who live in that area. However, having secured those assurances from the Minister, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming—

New Clause 31