On 21 November 2013, the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013 received Royal Assent. The Act is referred to as the “Paving Act”, and it and has immediate effect. It permits expenditure to be incurred on essential preparatory work for phases 1 and 2 of the new high speed rail line (HS2), including:
- more detailed design work;
- letting contracts for designing the construction of the line;
- designing the realignment of existing railway;
- planning the movement of utilities;
- ground investigation and ecological surveys; and
- making compensation payments to property owners that are likely to be affected.
In a related development, the government has published the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill 2013-14 (HSR Bill). This is a hybrid Bill as it has features of both a public and a private Bill. The HSR Bill allows the government to progress phase 1 of HS2. These powers include rights for the compulsorily acquisition of land, and rights over land, in order to construct and maintain HS2. The HSR Bill also provides deemed planning permission for phase 1, although any building works required as part of the scheme must be carried out in accordance with plans and specifications approved by the planning authority for the area in which the works are carried out. The HSR Bill limits the grounds on which a local planning authority may refuse approval. A third related development is the Department of Transport's (DfT's) publication of the HS2 phase 1 environmental statement. It is requesting comments on it and the consultation period closes on 24 January 2014.