The company behind the HS2 rail link is gagging local authorities with non-disclosure agreements that keep residents in the dark, a new report states.
The major review of England’s planning system warns HS2 Ltd is stoking resentment among communities who discover their councils are prevented from revealing details about the construction of the high-speed line.
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that 26 local authorities across the country have signed NDAs with the company at the early planning stage.
The authorities involved include Warwickshire, Staffordshire and North Yorkshire county councils.
Nick Raynsford, the former Labour planning minister who carried out the review for the Town and Country Planning Association, said the practice was fuelling a “corrosive sense on the part of the public, that planning is no longer protecting their interests”.
His report says the panel received “a great deal of evidence” from communities affected by the HS2 project.
Their concerns had four “distinct aspects”, including “the widespread use of confidentiality agreements by the HS2 company”.
“These agreements … 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 when they have discovered their existence,” the panel wrote.
“Whatever the commercial benefits of such agreements, they are not in the public interest,” the leader said.
A list disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act states that 28 NDAs were in force in April, all but one of which became effective after 2013 and have no end date.
An HS2 spokesman said: “Non-disclosure agreements help to avoid placing homes and businesses in unnecessary blight, protect commercially sensitive information, and help protect the personal information of those potentially affected.”
Source Edward Malnick and Jack Maidment - The Telegraph