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Camden Council has demanded the government waives a £20 fee it plans to charge residents who want to petition against the HS2 Bill.

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The council, which has labelled the high-speed rail project as “devastating for Camden”, made the pledge after a number of residents raised concerns about the cost at a meeting in the Castlehaven Community Centre in Camden Town last Thursday.

With many directly affected by the mammoth HS2 construction project living in social housing, the council said the government should not expect those affected to fork out £20 just to have their voices heard.

Council lawyer Louise Mclaughlan said the council were “lobbying against” the fee, having recognised that “for some people, £20 is an overwhelming amount which can stop them putting in a petition”.

David Padfield, the council’s HS2 programme director, said the matter had been raised “at every single public meeting” on HS2 that the council had organised, adding: “people do feel very, very strongly about it.”

Individuals and organisations can petition against the hybrid bill in spring 2014, after its second reading in the House of Commons.

Those residents who are “specially and directly affected” by the HS2 proposals will then be able to submit a petition opposing or seeking amendment of the Bill, but will be charged £20 for the privilege by the House of Commons Fee Office.

Parliament describes the £20 cost, introduced at that level in 1988, as being “partly a token of good faith” to ensure that petitions are genuine, as well as helping to pay administrative costs of running the select committee.

But despite the cost, the council said they are still encouraging residents to prepare petitions against the Bill.

“We want to encourage as many residents, community groups, businesses to petition,” said Sarah Hayward, Leader of Camden Council.

“We must start preparing for petitioning – it is a complex, lengthy and detailed process and if we don’t start now, we will miss the boat on being able to have a cogent petition.”

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