Last week's public meeting at Lowton Social Club gave local residents the chance to air their views about the Government's proposals for HS2.
Around 200 people attended and participated in a Q&A with Lowton East Ward Councillors’ James Cowley (Lab), Pam Gilligan (Lab), James Grundy (Con) and myself. A number of specific points were raised about the Government's plans, including:
• Route through Lowton and potential closure of Slag Lane
• The size and likely operation of the Depot
• The social and economic benefits of HS2 to the community
• Limited access to HS2
• The potential opportunity that HS2 may provide impetus for a train station to connect Leigh with Manchester and Merseyside
• Compensation payments for those directly affected by the route
• Impact of route on the emerging Local Plan (Core Strategy)
I told the meeting that, If HS2 is to go ahead, I will work to get the best possible deal I can for Lowton, reflecting the concerns of local people. A whole series of crucial points were raised by residents which require a detailed response from the Government. I will be raising these with the Secretary of State on behalf of the Lowton community and, in particular, will be calling for a more generous compensation scheme than that currently on offer.
I believe that HS2 can be good for the Borough, but I don't want to see Lowton and Leigh get all the disruption and none of the benefits.
Cutting journey times to London will help the North. But, if this is the only tangible Government can claim, then it will be a huge missed opportunity. It is essential that, as part of this investment, the Government opens up rail travel to more people and re-connects communities like Leigh to the rail network.
A straw poll on the night showed clear opposition to the proposed route but the meeting was open to the proposal for a local train station. While many people oppose HS2, I was pleased to find considerable support for exploring the idea of an interchange station linking us to Manchester, Merseyside and HS2. I will now put this proposal directly to the Secretary of State."
I will be convening a further public meeting later this year to follow up on all the issues raised.