Those affected by HS2 will soon have just 25 days to submit their objections to the scheme as the second reading of the Bill is expected imminently.
The second reading of the HS2 Bill is set to take place in the House of Commons in early January 2018, and those affected will then have a minimum of just 25 days to submit their petitions after the Second Reading debate.
Compulsory purchase specialist Fisher German is now giving advice and their top 10 tips on the petitioning process - one of the last opportunities for objectors to have their voice heard and seek to influence changes to the scheme presently before Parliament.
What is petitioning?
Petitioning is a two-stage process ultimately designed to allow you to put forward your objections to specific elements of the HS2 scheme that affect you.
Firstly, you must submit a written petition to Parliament.
Once the relevant petitioning period has ended you have the chance to appear before a House of Commons Select Committee to put forward your objections and set out what you require the Committee to consider by way of alternative solutions.
What has happened so far?
By way of a brief background, The High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill, or Phase 2a as it is more commonly known, was deposited with Parliament and given its first reading on July 17, 2017.
At this point the Environmental Statement Consultation began following the release of a whole raft of documents, the closing date for responses being September 30, 2017.
What happens next?
We are now eagerly awaiting the second reading of the Bill in the House of Commons following the end of the Environmental Statement Consultation process.
It has recently been confirmed that this could be taking place early this month, January 2018.
Whilst a delay in the second reading has allowed those affected a little comfort to enjoy the Christmas period, Parliament advise that once the second reading has taken place the period for submitting your written petition will be open for a minimum of 25 days.
Who can petition?
Any person, group of individuals, organisation or business specially and directly affected by the HS2 Bill is entitled to object to specific aspects of the scheme that affects them.
You may not simply object to the scheme as a whole.
Am I specially and directly affected by the Bill?
Being specially and directly affected is what gives you locus standi – the right to petition. This is not defined, but generally you must have an interest in the property being impacted by the construction of the scheme.
How should I write my petition?
A template petition form has recently been released by Parliament outlining the structure that your petition must take.
It should comprise: Petitioner Information; your objections to the Bill; and what you want to be done in response.
Your petition should outline how the Bill affects you or an organisation and how you believe that it should be changed to satisfy your objections.
The petition document can be deposited electronically via the House of Commons website, by email, post or in person at the House of Commons, by appointment.
The cost for depositing your petition is £20.
The following 10 tips will help you to put your best case forward:
Writing your petition
1. Set the scene – which aspects of the Bill particularly affect you
2. Keep it concise – you only need to outline the brief facts in general terms
3. State who you are – name and address. Are you part of a group or organisation?
4. Demonstrate how you are specially and directly affected by the Bill
5. State what needs to be done to reduce the affects and, where possible, how the Bill should be amended to achieve this
Appearing before the Select Committee
6. Read the Promoter’s Response Document (PRD) from HS2 – this is a formal response from HS2 and may deal with certain elements of your written submission
7. If your petition is accepted you must attend or be represented at the Select Committee in the Houses of Parliament in London. Go prepared, although formal the Committee will try to put you at ease and will understand that you may be inexperienced at presenting your case. If you are concerned you can be represented by an agent
8. Do not try to introduce new evidence during the hearing. This will not be considered and may reflect badly on your case
9. Do expand on the points made in your written petition and justify the remedy sought
10. Aim to keep your appointment to half an hour to ensure it is concise for the committee
Robert Browne of Fisher German’s Stafford Office said: “Once the Bill has been read, you will have at least 25 days to submit your written petition.
"This is one of the last opportunities to have your voice heard at Select Committee before the Bill is passed. Your petition forms the basis of your case, make it count.”
Charles Meynell, also of the Stafford Office, is a Roll B Parliamentary Agent and has represented a number of clients during the Phase 1 petitioning process.
He added: “During Phase 1, HS2 tended not to negotiate until we were close to the corridors of Parliament. To achieve support from the Committee you must put forward solutions which would resolve or mitigate the effects of the scheme.
"It is not for the Committee to make the suggestions but rather for the members to challenge HS2 as to why your reasonable proposals cannot be designed into the scheme.”