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HS2: Publicity blitz to stop people being ‘caught unaware’ of works

HS2: Publicity blitz to stop people being ‘caught unaware’ of works

Image: LDRS

Concern some Solihull residents have been caught off guard by HS2 works on their doorstep will drive a fresh effort to forewarn the public of changes.

The aim is to ensure that locals aren’t blindsided by tree felling, roadworks and other projects as the construction ramps up.

It follows previous public anger about the removal of vegetation along the likes of the A452, at Balsall Common.

While there is likely to be heated debate, in the weeks ahead, over plans for haul routes through the same village.

Cllr Alison Rolf, the council’s cabinet member for stronger and safer communities, has taken on an expanded role which will involve getting the word out to those communities on the frontline of development.

Her new duties were announced as part of changes to some of the Conservative administration’s top jobs following last month’s local elections.

“It’s just so people don’t get caught unawares,” she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

“It’s making sure we are all getting more information out to people.

“I do think if you have got chance to get used to the idea [it’s better] than suddenly coming across something.”

HS2 Ltd’s usual community roadshows were suspended last spring due to Covid-19 restrictions.

It does however have an online portal – Commonplace – which offers regular updates on works planned along different sections of the route, with a specific version for Solihull.

But Cllr Rolf, who represents Bickenhill, one of three wards that the tracks will pass through, admitted that “not everyone has all the time in the world to be checking websites”.

Similarly while the council convenes a quarterly public meeting with HS2 officials – the implementation advisory group – it is usually attended by a group of parish councillors and campaigners with existing knowledge of the scheme.

Cllr Rolf, who has sat on the group since its inception, said her new role would be to act as a liaison with the rail project and lead the drive to alert people about the proposals likely to impact on them.

While a lot of the publicity blitz will remain digital, the council will also explore opportunities to work with the likes of parish newsletters to get the word out.

“Our main concern is to make sure people are as informed as they possibly can be,” said the cabinet member.

“HS2 is happening and we need to be doing everything we can to mitigate the problems for residents.”

  • Next week HS2 will be holding one-to-one virtual meetings with residents in the Berkswell and Balsall Common area.

20 minute slots to ask questions and clarify elements of the scheme with both the rail project itself and key contractor Balfour Beatty Vinci will be available on Tuesday, June 15 (from 1-6pm).

More information is available here – https://tinyurl.com/2ksyaebj

Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter


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