Support for local business

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

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Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:00, 8 March 2016

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.