“Thursday 28th January saw the annual West Midlands ‘Great Debate’ hosted and organised by the professional institutes responsible for the built environment, principally the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), the Landscape Institute, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). This year’s Great Debate is about High Speed 2, the single biggest infrastructure project affecting the Midlands and the UK.
“Chaired by ‘Dragons Den’s” Evan Davis the sell-out event at Birmingham City University was also interactive with members via a live broadcast webex and live twitter feed. At the start of the debate Evan Davis conducted an audience poll which resulted in an overwhelming majority in favour of HS2 opposed to just a handful against. It was clear that the against panel - Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England; Chris Stokes, independent consultant representing 51M, a group of local authorities opposed to HS2; and Jerry Marshall founding member of AGAHST (Action Groups Against High Speed Two) – had a tough battle ahead of them.
“The panel in favour of HS2 was composed of Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council; Davinder Bansall, Architect with Glenn Howells Architects (GHA); and Pete Waterman OBE, record producer and founder of Waterman Railway Heritage Trust. Focusing on the proposed benefits of HS2 such as the potential economic growth, the increased capacity and employment opportunities the ‘for’ panel were impassioned and emphatic on the ‘essential need’ for HS2 summed up by Sir Albert Bore who said, “this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, we must take this opportunity and we must build HS2.” The ‘against’ panel, however, chose to focus on the financial cost of HS2 (in excess of £50billion), the environmental impact and whether the need for HS2 was as great as expressed. This concern was shared by audience members who questioned the potential ‘fare prices’ that HS2 would impose and how ‘affordable’ it would be in practice. “There must be better ways of spending £50billion in the Midlands and the North. HS2 is a vanity project; a latter day concord,” announced Chris Stokes. Donovan Bailey, Stakeholder Manager at High Speed 2 Limited was also interviewed on the audience questions to provide the ‘official’ HS2 response.
“Closing the debate Evan Davis took the opportunity to conduct another audience poll on HS2 following the comments made from all representatives. Yet again the poll displayed an overwhelming vote in favour of the project with even some of those who voted ‘against’ first time round being persuaded of the potential benefits of the project.”
Check out the live tweets from the debate here
Audience vote in favour of HS2
Anti HS2 debate panelists