Support for local business

High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 8 March 2016.

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(1) The Nominated Undertaker must take all reasonable steps to safeguard the interest of local businesses negatively affected by the construction and operation of the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) line.

(2) Such mitigation shall include, but not be limited to—

(a) providing support for marketing and promotion to maintain footfall,

(b) property modifications and shop front improvements,

(c) use of properties which become vacant for business meanwhile uses, and

(d) facilitating relocation of businesses should this become required as a direct result of the scheme.

This new clause requires the Nominated Undertaker to mitigate the impacts of the HS2 works and scheme on local businesses. Measures shall include promotion activity to maintain footfall, property and shop front modifications, and facilitating relocation of businesses if this becomes necessary as a result of the scheme.

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.

Euston is a strategically important business destination with an annual gross value added of some £3.37 billion. There are many small businesses in the area, some of which characterise Camden very well. I am thinking particularly of those in the Drummond Street area, where there is a range of restaurants, many of which are south-east Asian. I think the Minister mentioned that he had had lunch there recently. I am sure it was a very good restaurant and I must go.

Other properties, for example in the Langtry Walk area, will be impacted by a construction yard for the ventilation shafts, as I understand it. Those businesses will be extraordinarily vulnerable to the impact of construction. Some 145 businesses are located in the safeguarding area, including 73 which will be demolished. More than 300 businesses are located in close proximity to major construction works. It follows that some 2,915 jobs are at risk of loss or displacement. In its business mitigation assurances to Camden Council, HS2 Ltd agreed to develop a business support strategy in consultation with Camden Council that will consider engagement with and support for businesses affected by HS2 before and during construction, including how to promote and market those businesses. HS2 also agreed for an agency to be set up at least one year before the main HS2 construction works begin, to assist businesses that need to move due to the works. The agency would help those businesses to identify suitable alternative premises. Within the assurances secured there is a specific commitment to provide a community environment fund and a business and local economy fund to support projects in Camden of different sizes—some are for the larger ones and some for the smaller.

I re-emphasise what the HS2 Select Committee has said—that the £34,800 rateable value cap for “need to sell” business applications was not appropriate in the case of London businesses, given that too many would exceed that cap. They have asked the Government for a re-evaluation, such that the proportion of London businesses falling below the cap is broadly the same as elsewhere. That would appear eminently reasonable in order to bring some equity to bear.

This is a much-needed new clause, to try to secure additional assurances and comment from the Minister that the very real and legitimate concerns of these businesses will be adequately addressed.

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

The Government are committed to ensuring that we minimise the impact on local businesses as we construct HS2, but the new clause will not help to further that commitment. The environmental statement that accompanied the Bill already commits to mitigating the construction impacts of the scheme on businesses. Through the Select Committee process that we have just completed, we have provided a great number of businesses with specific binding assurances to address the impacts that they may experience. I have visited some of the businesses myself to see first hand the problems they face. We have committed to engaging with local communities during the construction phase and managing any concerns they have. We fully expect that that may include the provision of good-quality public realm amenities during construction, such as temporary planting, colourful hoardings—which may, for example, give information about the operation of nearby businesses—and so on. We are considering what we can do in terms of signposting and information on businesses that are operating within the area to minimise impacts in terms of isolation and amenity.

As the hon. Gentleman said, I visited a Drummond Street restaurant with Mr Frank Dobson, a former Member of Parliament, and can very much understand some of the problems the businesses anticipate when construction has severed the area and made it difficult for customers to get through. It is important that we do whatever we can to ensure that they continue to thrive. I hope construction workers themselves bring patronage to those types of businesses.

We have also launched a business and local economy fund to add benefit over and above committed mitigation and statutory compensation to support local economies that are demonstrably disrupted by the construction of HS2. The fund may well support measures such as improvements to the local public realm, especially in retail and tourist areas, events that increase footfall or promote business activity during seasonal periods and general promotional activity.

The hon. Gentleman raised the £34,000 business rate cap for “need to sell” business applications. Members of the Select Committee raised that with me, and the Government are looking at it. Business rates in London are far greater than those in other parts of the country, and if we can, we will certainly do something to try to address that problem for the small number of businesses that fall outside that particular net.

Applications will be invited for capital or revenue grants from £10,000 up to a maximum of £1 million. It will be for local businesses and support organisations, including local authorities, to identify appropriate projects that will help to maintain business activity in local communities.

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

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the Minister. I have heard what he has to say and, given all the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 35