Third Special Report of Session 2017–19 Contents

5Mental Health

Background

93.When building a railway we instinctively think about engineering matters and not about the psychological impact of such a project on communities. We heard from petitioners throughout this process about the impact of long-term uncertainty on both individuals and their communities. We heard from Jeremy Lefroy MP that such a Scheme puts greater pressure on GP practices. Mr Lefroy requested that there should be additional provision for the local health service through the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).57 He said that some petitioners felt that they had been bullied by HS2. We understand that Mr Lefroy has been privately raising individual cases with HS2 as personal information must remain confidential. The key to prevent petitioners from experiencing mental health issues is effective community engagement and communication.

94.Whilst hearing the petitions, the Committee became increasingly concerned about the impact of major infrastructure projects on the mental health of individuals and their communities. In our Second Special Report we directed HS2 to commission an epidemiological report to address community health and wellbeing with the intention of establishing a baseline from which quantitative analysis could be conducted.58 The Government told us that “monitoring changes to the epidemiological mental health and well-being baseline along the HS2 Phase 2a route during construction would be relatively straightforward, but the challenge would be in assessing whether any changes observed–positive or negative–were specifically attributable to HS2”.59 As a result of our instruction an epidemiological quantitative analysis of the impact on mental health and well-being and the construction and operation of Phase 2a was to be scoped.

95.HS2’s Scope and Methodology Report Addendum to the Environmental Statement noted “there is an acknowledgement that there is limited published evidence of the impact of large-scale infrastructure projects on human health”.60 That this is acknowledged by HS2 at such an early stage indicated an awareness of the issue. We noted at the time of the Government’s response to our Second Special Report that a procurement exercise was under way to provide HS2 staff with expert advice and assistance in supporting vulnerable people.61 Whilst we welcome this and look forward to seeing its impact we are unable to understand why such support for the community had not been put in place before the process began. It can only benefit the project to get this right. We hope that the procurement and operation of the new advice service for staff proves successful and is taken through into Phase 2b so that both staff and communities’ benefit.

Progress

96.We welcome the increased efforts by HS2 to help those affected by the Scheme. Individuals and communities need support to understand this unusual process with which they need to engage. The process is complex for the lay person: legal notices, differing property compensation schemes and the process of understanding and applying for entitlements seems muddled and unnecessarily bureaucratic. Support is required for individuals who may not be able to advocate on their own behalf, who are frail and who have deteriorating health. We look forward to Parliament receiving an update on the progress of this new initiative. Parliament will also be interested in the study commissioned through Public Health England and Imperial College London on the “health impacts experienced by Euston residents that are submitted to noise from the construction of HS2”.62 This valuable research will help to inform the approach for future large scale infrastructure projects.

97.The Government told us that “HS2 will conduct a qualitative assessment of written responses collected during community consultation to identify stress and anxiety, impacts” and conduct a similar exercise for the consultation on the HS2 Phase 2b Working Draft Environmental Statement”.63

98.We welcome the review and broadening of the criteria for eligibility of projects to improve mental health and wellbeing for funding from the HS2 Community and Environment Fund and the Business and Local Economy Fund64 and encourage communities to apply to these funds for community initiatives. This is a good opportunity for communities to identify their own local requirements, link up and obtain funding for improved local facilities.

99.In the March update report from HS2 Ltd we heard that HS2 had commissioned consultant health experts to undertake the initial scoping for an epidemiological study to address community health and wellbeing. HS2 was shortly to approach “expert academic institutions” to obtain their views on the scope and scale of the proposed study, which was to involve:

100.These strands will focus on the construction and operation of HS2 for the HS2 Phase 2a route, but also involve data collection relating to HS2 Phase 1 and Phase 2b.

101.We appreciate the cross-departmental work that has taken place on this issue and instruct the Government to incorporate and build on this work. The committee instructs HS2 to report to the HS2 Phase 2b hybrid Bill Select Committee on how the government is taking forward this issue.


57 14 May 2018, Q 28

58 Second Special Report of the Committee, HC 1452 paras 72–75

59 Government response to the Committee’s Second Special Report, para 126

60 Promoter’s response to the Select Committee’s Second Special Report of Session 2017–19, para 130 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hs2-phase-2a-promoters-response-to-select-committees-second-special-report

61 November 2018

62 Government response to the Committee’s Second Special Report, paragraph 131




Published: 7 June 2019