New Clause 20 - HS2 Design Panel

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

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During the nominated undertaker’s ongoing design work for Phase One purposes it must have regard to the recommendations of the HS2 Independent Design Panel, or to the recommendations of a successor body which may be designated by the Secretary of State from time to time.”—(Andy McDonald.)

The Department for Transport established a HS2 Design Panel November 2015. This new clause would require the nominated undertaker to ‘have regard’ to Design Panel’s recommendations during the design work for Phase One.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 9:25, 8 March 2016

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

It is a pleasure to appear in front of you this morning, Mr Chope. The Committee has been successful and efficient. We had many interesting discussions last week. We concluded our discussion of the amendments and we now come to the new clauses.

New clause 20 concerns the HS2 design panel. On 10 December 2015, HS2 took another step from the drawing board to reality with the appointment of a new independent design panel to support HS2 in realising its aim of applying the best design principles to all its work. The panel, chaired by Sadie Morgan, will be the project’s independent adviser, helping it to deliver on its key design principles around people, place and time. A host of experts are engaged, including experts in urban design, landscape and equality, diversity and inclusion. I have seen that already in the session that I attended in Darlington, where there was clear engagement. That is woven into the fabric of HS2 and is to be welcomed.

Experts in digital and brand and product will work alongside internationally renowned architects, together with sustainability and engineering experts, to help guide HS2’s development, so it all bodes well. Sadie Morgan, the chair, said that the aim of the panel was to

“mentor and inspire HS2 to design a transformational railway system which will exceed all of our expectations.”

She also said:

The British creative and engineering industry is already delivering outstanding examples of design excellence around the world. HS2 is a huge opportunity to bring that brilliance home.”

Indeed, the Minister echoed those words and said that the panel

“is crucial to ensure HS2 achieves its full potential for everyone. This includes making sure that passengers get the experience they want from HS2 and that it is sympathetic to the landscape through which it is built.”

He concluded by saying,

“We want HS2 to be a world class railway which maximises the benefits for the country. Having such a highly-skilled group of experts on board will help make travelling on it easy and pleasurable and ensure we have impressive stations to act as a catalyst for significant regeneration and economic growth.”

The chief executive, Simon Kirby, said that he was

“delighted the...Panel has now been formed. It’s a mark of HS2’s significance that it’s attracted such a wealth of talent to help us deliver this transformational piece of infrastructure for the nation. Forty five experts will form the independent design panel team, contributing to the project’s development in areas where their specialist experience and opinion is required.”

He went on to say:

“Cementing the principles of the Design Vision so early in HS2’s development will help it to play a key role in rebalancing the economy through delivering the benefits that flow from investing in Britain’s new high speed rail network.”

It is that principle of cementing the design vision that our new clause seeks to address. Sadly, I can see no reference to the HS2 design panel in the Bill, so we have tabled the new clause to secure assurances from the Minister that the nominated undertaker will make best use of the considerable expertise of those on the independent design panel and have regard to the design panel’s recommendations during the design work for phase 1. With that, I invite the Minister to take the opportunity to clarify the weight that the recommendations of the HS2 design panel will have with the nominated undertaker in the construction of High Speed 2.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 9:30, 8 March 2016

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope; a very good morning to you.

The intention of the new clause, as the hon. Member for Middlesbrough has said, is to require the nominated undertaker to have regard to the design panel’s recommendations during the design work for phase 1 of HS2. The design panel was established in November 2015. I hope I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurances he seeks, and that he will not feel it necessary to press the new clause to a vote.

We recognise that great design is essential for High Speed 2. We want it to make the country proud and show the world what great British design can do. For that reason, HS2 Ltd has created a design vision for the railway, and we have set up an independent design panel to provide advice on and a critique of the development of HS2, to help it achieve its design vision.

The remit of the panel is based on widely accepted industry best practice, as set out by the Design Council and other design bodies. HS2 Ltd, in designing the railway, is required by the Department’s development agreement to incorporate the recommendations of the design panel, where this is practical. Binding assurances to this effect have been given to local authorities, including Birmingham City Council, the Greater London Authority, and others. The independent design panel is only just being established, but HS2 Ltd would be expected to follow any recommendations made by the successor of the design panel, and the development agreement would be amended accordingly.

I have to say we made some mistakes at the start of the scheme, when a number of cut-and-paste viaducts were used to indicate the line of route. Some communities were alarmed to see viaducts of that type, which had no design element incorporated in them; they looked like concrete boxes on legs. That is not the intention. We intend to have some iconic designs, and I think the design of the railway will be awesome in places; in  others it will be more sympathetic to the location. The design panel is integral to delivering that. Therefore, I believe that the Opposition’s concerns have already been met, and that the new clause is not necessary.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am extremely grateful to the Minister, who set out with great clarity the fact that there is a requirement to incorporate the recommendations, with a raft of binding assurances. I am content with that, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.