HS2 'gagging order' stopped council revealing information to public

HS2 asked Warwickshire County Council to sign a non-disclosure agreement in 2013
HS2 asked Warwickshire County Council to sign a non-disclosure agreement in 2013

A 'gagging order’ from HS2 stopped Warwickshire County Council from revealing information about the high-speed line to the public, it has emerged.

The county council signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with HS2 in 2013 to receive ‘early design project updates’ before the publication of the HS2 Hybrid Bill in November of that year.

The council said it would not have been able to receive this information otherwise.

Several other local authorities also signed NDAs with HS2 to keep information hidden from the public in the early stages of HS2’s planning.

The Raynsford Review, a report into the state of England’s planning system published on Tuesday November 20, suggested the practice caused people to lose confidence in HS2 and local authorities.

It claimed: “These agreements not to disclose information to the public on a broad range of issues may serve a legitimate purpose in the eyes of those charged with the delivery of the project, but they have created real anger among local politicians and even more resentment from affected communities.”

The review also criticised HS2 for not giving people enough information on how to petition Parliament, and its lack of consultation with affected residents.

A Warwickshire County Council spokesman said it was committed to supporting communities affected by HS2, and said its reasons for signing the NDA were ‘misunderstood’.

The spokesman added: “This action did not have any bearing on our active engagement and support of our communities affected by HS2, who continued to have regular dialogue with councillors and HS2 area forums, and receive information during this time.

“The county council’s focus remains on getting a better deal for Warwickshire, and we have taken a consistent and pragmatic approach to reduce the impact of HS2 on the county.”

And an HS2 spokesman said: “As we continue to develop HS2 we regularly engage with local authorities and share with them work at an early design stage.

“Non-disclosure agreements during the planning phase help to avoid placing homes and businesses in unnecessary blight, protect commercially sensitive information, and help protect the personal information of those potentially affected by any proposed changes.”