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Camden Council hires giant global PR firm in battle against HS2

The new team will join Camden Council in helping represent their views on HS2. Picture: Dieter Perry The new team will join Camden Council in helping represent their views on HS2. Picture: Dieter Perry

Thursday, March 13, 2014
11:00 AM

Camden Council has upped the ante in its campaign against the government’s High Speed 2 rail link after forking out £250,000 to hire a team of legal, PR and rail experts.

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A panel of leading lawyers, lobbyists and engineers will join council officers to help the borough avoid what the council claims will be a “decade of blight” should the £50billion transport link go ahead as planned.

The proposals would see the borough transformed into a densely populated building site, with thousands of construction workers, hundreds of HGVs and a fleet of cranes making it their new home for the next 10 years.

Among those being drafted in by the council are leading QC Neil Cameron, an expert in planning and compulsory purchases, parliamentary agents Sharpe Pritchard, who advised Westminster Council and Canary Wharf Group on Crossrail, and leading public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.

At a time when the council is already under pressure to make significant savings to its budget, council leader Cllr Sarah Hayward said she “bitterly resented” council taxpayers having to foot the bill.

“All the parties elected to Camden Council have unanimously opposed the current plans, and now we’re stepping up our campaign into a new gear ahead of the second reading debate, anticipated as soon as next month,” she said. “The parliamentary process is arcane and massively complicated, which means we have to use external expert parliamentary agents, a top barrister and now Burson-Marsteller to boost our efforts.

“As we’re going to have to show that our alternative solutions, which are better for Camden people, also stack up in engineering terms, we also have to employ top engineering firms.

“The biggest threat warrants the best possible response, although of course I bitterly resent seeing taxpayers’ money spent on this, instead of front line services.”

The second reading of the HS2 Hybrid Bill in the Commons is estimated to be on April 28 at the earliest. Should the bill pass, this will be followed by a select committee process in which the council’s “petition” is likely to involve the council formally giving evidence to a committee of MPs for several days.

Next month, HS2 Ltd will bring in its own new employees, including Tony Blair’s former spokesman Tom Kelly as communications director.

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