"HS2 does nothing for the town" - Doncaster councillor hits out over Chamber's support for controversial rail scheme

A Doncaster councillor has said a borough business board is ‘on another planet’ in response to comments from its chief executive in support of HS2.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 1st December 2020, 5:27 pm

Doncaster Chamber of Commerce chief Dan Fell said any delay to the scheme would ‘impact the economic future of the region’ and reference high unemployment in the area and people ‘should be angry’ that the Government are ‘backsliding’ on key infrastructure projects.

Mexborough First Coun Sean Gibbons, an opponent to HS2, said the project does ‘nothing for the town’ and money should be spent on alternative projects like improving northern connectivity.

One of the borough’s principal towns, Mexborough will lose more homes to demolition than any other area affected by HS2.

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L-R: Mexborough councillor Sean Gibbons; Doncaster Chamber CEO Dan Fell

The Government has purchased 75 homes for potential demolition to make way for the line but ward councillors predict this could be more than 200 once finalised.

Coun Gibbons urged Mr Fell to visit Mexborough next year to meet with business leaders to explain why the HS2 project would benefit the town.

In a statement last week, Mr Fell said: “Any delay would impact the economic future of the region at a time when key stakeholders and businesses need clarity and certainty to move forward and recover from the impact of the pandemic.

“The truth is that ‘‘levelling up’’ is not about big infrastructure projects and transportation, it is about people.

“In South Yorkshire, we have more people claiming unemployment-related benefits than at any time since the 1990s.

“This is why South Yorkshire’s businesses and residents should be so angry every time it feels that key projects are backsliding or that Government is trying to tell us that ‘levelling up’’ does not apply to us.”

Coun Gibbons said: “It feels like they’re on another planet in terms of comparing unemployment benefits in South Yorkshire to needing HS2 – I don’t know where that comes in at all.

“We need this so-called levelling up the Government talks about but for us HS2 does nothing for the people of Mexborough. The situation has moved on.

“The chamber has said that levelling up is about people, but tell them to the people who have had to leave their homes to make way for it.

“For him to say this in the height of Covid-19, the pandemic has demonstrated that the project is less needed then it was before with more people working from home.

“We still maintain that this whole project needs an urgent review, there are so many problems with it.

“Investing in rail schemes in the north of England will bring more benefit to the Doncaster and Mexborough economy than HS2, you don’t need to be an expert to say that.”

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