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Not enough regional experts on HS2 design panel, say critics

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45-strong independent panel advising on High Speed 2 (HS2) criticised for being too ‘London-centric’ and lacking heritage expertise

Questions have also been raised about whether the eclectic mix of industry experts, who include Tate director Nicholas Serota and former AOC director Daisy Froud, will have any real influence on the design of the multibillion rail link.

Chaired by dRMM director Sadie Morgan, the panel features architects, landscape designers, sustainability specialists, business figures, academics, brand consultants, infrastructure experts and community engagement professionals (see full list here).

The panel, described as a ‘pool’ of talent which will be called on ‘as required’, includes architects Glenn Howells, Nathalie de Vries of MVRDV, Tom Holbrook of 5th Studio, Hiro Aso of Gensler and Beatrix Young of Farrells. However only nine of the 45 are based outside the capital.

Julie Laming of Bristol-based consultancy Planning Ventures said: ‘[The panel] is essentially a London-centric group. This makes very little sense. Surely with a government promoting the localism agenda and the Northern Powerhouse, this panel should incorporate the talent of many great professionals that work within the regions of HS2’s route – those with local knowledge and an understanding of the rural and urban areas that the route will pass through.’

There is also concern at the lack of experts with conservation knowledge. Henry Russell, chair of The Heritage Alliance’s Spatial Planning Advocacy Group said: ‘We are concerned about the lack of representation of heritage specialists on the panel.

‘Without this necessary expertise to call on, we are concerned how the panel will deliver good quality design in historic settings. It will be important that the panel has a positive relationship in the design process.’

Rab Bennetts of Bennetts Associates, who has worked on a number of Crossrail stations, questioned how much power the panel would have.

‘Will the panel, which clearly has good intentions, have any teeth when it comes to design quality both within the HS2 camp and with the planning authorities who will have the final say?’ he asked.

He added: ‘It is also interesting to note how many prominent architects are not on the list.’

HS2 declined to respond to the criticisms. However speaking at the launch of the panel earlier this week, Morgan insisted the group would ‘mentor and inspire HS2 to design a transformational railway system which will exceed all of our expectations’.

She added: ‘The British creative and engineering industry is already delivering outstanding examples of design excellence around the world. HS2 is a huge opportunity to bring that brilliance home.’

The multibillion pound HS2 will be a Y-shaped rail network initially linking London and Birmingham (phase one) before joining up with Manchester and Leeds (phase two).

HS2's Independent Design Panel

HS2’s Independent Design Panel

Other comments

Mark Goldspink, chief executive, Purcell
‘We’re surprised and disappointed that such little consideration has been given regarding the heritage assets that will be affected by HS2, demonstrated by the design panel appointments.

‘Given the unique nature of the environment, the number of heritage sites that are likely to be impacted by the plans, and the abundance of conservation expertise in the UK, the sector should be better represented.’

Christopher Costelloe, director, Victorian Society
‘The omission of anyone directly representing a heritage body on HS2’s large design panel is a concern. Important Grade I-listed sites like Birmingham’s Victorian Curzon Street station should have members on the proposed ‘site-specific design panels’ fighting to ensure that any proposals recognise the importance of such historic buildings and seek to enhance them.’

Robert Bargery, director, Georgian Group
‘Conservation of the natural and built world is something that anyone building a major infrastructure project through half of England needs to think about. They may as well think about it now rather than later at a public inquiry, which will cost a lot of money.’

‘Clearly the route, particularly in London will need to be considered very carefully from a heritage point of view. There is a lot of anxiety about Nash’s Park Village East in Camden, which isn’t due for demolition but could be structurally affected by nearby works.’

Alan Dunlop of Alan Dunlop Architects
‘The panel is London centric - I don’t think anyone in Scotland or north of Watford would have expected anything else. At the recent AJ lunch in Glasgow,Laura Kidd, Head of Architecture at HS2 presented her teams proposals. The line from London to Birmingham was clearly and distinctively set out, phase two from Birmingham to Manchester was also clear but presented in a noticeably lighter tone with no date.

‘The track running from Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh, supposedly phase 3 was a broken line, in 4B pencil. I doubt those present at the lunch believed phase 3 will happen, ever.’


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Hopefully the panel will consider it part of their remit to encourage the re-creation of the magnificent Euston Arch.

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