Listed buildings and ancient monuments

High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 25th June 2019.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Labour, Westminster North

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

That schedule 18 be the Eighteenth schedule to the Bill.

That schedule 19 be the Nineteenth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury)

The clause introduces schedules 18 and 19, which disapply or modify controls for listed buildings and ancient monuments to allow the construction of phase 2a and to enable the installation of noise insulation in listed buildings.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Labour, Slough

Obviously, listed buildings and ancient monuments are held in high regard nationally. Can the Minister assure us that, in addition to the views of Historic England, English Heritage and the like, the views of local historical groups and community groups will be taken into account before any decisions are made?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury)

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Of course local communities want to protect their local heritage sites, and of course we will work with local authorities and Historic England. HS2 Ltd has an extensive community engagement team that works on the ground, and there are also opportunities to petition at the appropriate points in the Bill’s passage.

The listed buildings affected are listed in tables 1 and 2 in schedule 18, and the disapplications or modifications apply only to those buildings. Schedule 19 allows a person authorised by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England to enter land where there is a scheduled monument to observe or advise on the carrying out of works to ensure the protection of monuments. Similar provisions were included in the Crossrail Act 2008 and the phase 1 Act of 2017.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

It is always a cause of dismay when our built heritage is affected by new development. The provisions in the clause are very wide ranging. The Minister could consider better safeguards to further ensure that our country’s built heritage is protected during the construction of this vital national infrastructure project. In particular, perhaps a presumption against demolition could be considered where practical. Indeed, the dismantling and relocation of items of built heritage, where practical, might be presumed a better solution. If that were not possible for the entire building, certainly key features of interest could be dismantled, preserved, salvaged or relocated where appropriate.

On the inspection and observation of works, schedule 18 merely indicates that there will be an opportunity for English Heritage to inspect the works, but there is no obligation on it to do so. That could be tightened by the inclusion of an obligation to ensure that all heritage assets affected are inspected and recorded, including by laser scanning to provide a highly accurate 3D model of any assets that are destroyed as a result of the project. That would be a far better way to safeguard the built heritage of our country as a result of the project.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses)

I concur with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East. I know he has a deep personal commitment to this issue, as he represents a constituency in which a wonderful historic building suffered serious damage.

We take this issue seriously, and I urge the Government to take great care and look at some specific pieces of heritage that might be affected by the developments, such as the historic mileposts, the 1867 rail building at the important historic rail town of Crewe, and the grade II listed farm houses in the line of the route. It would be ironic if wonderful railway architecture from previous generations was damaged or completely destroyed by the building of HS2. It would be so much better if whatever possible could be preserved for the benefit of future generations. We hope the Government will look further into that and consider possible mitigation.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury)

Once again, important points have been raised that were also made about HS2 and, no doubt, made to the Select Committee. One hon. Member has a particular issue within their constituency, which no doubt we will hear about again today.

Similar provisions were included in the Crossrail Act 2008 and the HS2 phase 1 Act of 2017. All works must be done in accordance with the environmental minimum requirements, and the normal requirements and appropriate consents are always obtained when dealing with listed buildings.

The Secretary of State will have to work with local authorities and Historic England. The Select Committee considered the scheme’s effect on specific historical sites, and the scheme is designed to seek to avoid impacts on culture or heritage. We recognise the importance of such assets to communities locally and nationally. Even though we are trying to build an up-to-date, modern railway line, since I became HS2 Minister, I have been concerned to ensure that we honour historical sites close by and try to mitigate any impacts on them. I am sure that HS2 Ltd will continue to do that.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 21 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 18 and 19 agreed to.