The Government’s independent adviser on infrastructure has called for a pause on the sale of land earmarked for the scrapped HS2 routes.
Under a process known as safeguarding, land on those routes was protected to stop conflicting developments taking place.
However in the wake of the Government’s decision, the Department for Transport said safeguarding will be lifted in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire “at the earliest opportunity”, adding: “Any property that is no longer required for HS2 will be sold and a programme is being developed to do this.”
Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, said opting to sell the land was a “mistake”, as he urged the Government to have “a proper consideration about how best we can connect Birmingham and Manchester and give us that improved capacity that we still need”.
He told the BBC: “I think it’s a mistake. I think that the land should be kept for at least two or three years to give the opportunity for people to revisit that and look at what can be done within that space and find a more cost-effective solution, not write it off today.
“I am disappointed because I think it’s what we often describe as a sort of knee-jerk, snap reaction.”
In his announcement, Mr Sunak pledged to reinvest the money earmarked for the scrapped HS2 routes into other transport projects, including the creation of what he named Network North – a plan to improve roads, rails and buses.
Sir John told the broadcaster a full evaluation of the Network North proposal was needed to develop it into a “well-thought-through, integrated plan for the future”.
“We had an integrated plan a few weeks ago, we’ve now lost that,” he said.
“There are a number of projects, some of which already existed, some new ones.
“Let’s get those properly turned into a well-thought-through, integrated plan for the future.”
A Government spokesperson told the BBC: “Delivering high-quality infrastructure is the foundation of our future growth.
“Our Network North plan will deliver the transport that matters most to people, and we’re adopting a fairer and more pragmatic approach to meeting net zero that supports households and families to make greener choices whilst easing the burdens on working people.
“We are delivering over £600bn of planned public sector investment in infrastructure, R&D and defence over the next five years, including an unprecedented package to improve connections in our city regions and billions to decarbonise buildings.”