HS2 phase 1 image - provided by HS2 Ltd

Work on the delivery of HS2 in Cheshire East is set to be ramped up, writes Ethan Davies.

The authority’s constitution committee has recommended “Schedule 17 arrangements” be reviewed fortnightly by planning officers and committee members.

Schedule 17 applications lay out detail in which HS2 Ltd — the company tasked with delivering the railway — can build necessary buildings, infrastructure, and ancillary works to complete the project.

Speeding up the way applications are dealt with is essential for the borough to remain as a “qualifying authority”.

If it loses this status, applications would be referred to the Secretary of State who “would take all decisions on Schedule 17 Applications”.

The increase in scrutiny comes as another council report found the development of Crewe’s HS2 hub was not “viable” in its current plan.

Cheshire East Council environment and regeneration overview and scrutiny committee report said: “The economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainties about the future commercial development market mean this scheme would not be viable as business rate revenues would likely be realised much later.

“In addition, the original scheme would require significant upfront borrowing by the council and therefore it would need to service the debt out of existing budgets until the business rate revenues were sufficient to cover it.”

At the meeting in which the report was discussed, Cllr Mike Hunter raised concerns that the Crewe hub needed further support from within the county.

He said: “We started off by saying how important Crewe is nationally and that is all well and good. HS2 will be like our Manchester Airport, locally.

“The most important connectivity will be from the local areas. Everything that comes from outside is cream on the cake.

“We have to get people in to Crewe who used to come in.

“I know that that council is taking a chance with the pandemic but let’s be straight about this.

“If we do not get in the position that we need to be in, when the pandemic is over it is a lose-lose, not a win.”

HS2 infrastructure is on-track to be delivered in 2025 in the town, leaving “a small window of opportunity to do much of the work in a cost effective way through aligning with this ‘core’ HS2 programme”.

Cheshire East’s full council will meet tomorrow (Wednesday October 21).

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