'No positives' to planned rail link
The Government's plans for a high-speed rail link will jeopardise efforts to develop the economy in the north west of the county, councillors have said.
Phase two of the £32 billion High Speed 2 (HS2) project, connecting Birmingham with Leeds, could cut through a swathe of North West Leicestershire.
The district council has said the proposed route will have a "negative impact" on the area's economy – particularly its tourist industry.
Councillors overwhelmingly backed a motion - initially proposed by Councillor Alison Smith, deputy leader of the authority, but with ammendments added by the council's opposition Labour group - when it met on Tuesday.
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She said: "The second stage of the HS2 line from Birmingham to Leeds will pass right through North West Leicestershire.
"Our view is that the proposed route for the track will have significant negative impact on our businesses and our prospects for economic growth.
"It will remove two major employment sites, including the proposed Strategic Rail Freight Hub by East Midlands Airport, and two major hotels in our district."
The council reiterated calls for the line to be rerouted outside Leicestershire and a HS2 station built in Derby instead of the one proposed at Toton.
Coun Smith said: "We also feel the proposal will jeopardise our efforts to build up a viable tourism industry in the National Forest and will have a negative impact on our countryside and thousands of residential properties.
"Therefore, North West Leicestershire District Council objects to the proposed HS2 route on the basis that there is no positive impact on the district, its residents and businesses – and we urge the Secretary of State for Transport to reconsider the proposals and look again at following a route along the A38 to Derby."
Councillor Leon Spence, leader of the council's opposition Labour group, said: "The Government's plans for HS2 are a major cause of concern to residents and outline proposals will have a major effect on many homes and businesses.
"If it goes ahead then job growth will be put in jeopardy, not only with existing employers but also the potential loss of about 6,000 jobs at the proposed freight interchange to the east of Castle Donington.
"While we are waiting, potentially for many years, for construction to start, we will face a period of planning blight which will have a massively negative impact throughout the area."
The district council agreed to forward its concerns to neighbouring local authorities, MPs, Government ministers and HS2 Ltd to "obtain the best possible outcome for North West Leicestershire".
It's formal opposition to the HS2 proposals mirror that agreed by County Hall last week.
Sophie Churchill, chief executive of the National Forest Company, a project launched with Government backing in 1995 to encourage regeneration and tree planting across a 200sq mile area, including a large swathe of Leicestershire, said: "I think the council is right. It's not just the impact the HS2 line will have on woodland, but the whole of the forest area. It will be massively destructive."
"What I'm not so sure about is moving the line further west, which will still be in the forest area. However, whatever happens, we will cope."
Martin Peters, chief executive of LeicesterShire Promotions, a body set up to promote tourism, said: "I agree with the council. The proposed station at Toton is miles from anywhere."