Masterplan needed for Toton
THE potential impact on Nottingham of High Speed 2 has dominated conversations since the announcement a week ago by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
Depending where you live, you are either for it or against it.
The HS2 train out of Toton is 20 years away.
Derby may be fighting for HS2 to go through the city but the reality is that only a foolish government will divert the line away from a Core City such as Nottingham.
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Toton sidings seems a sensible compromise but we only have a short time, perhaps five years, to get it right.
Toton sidings are in the green belt, a policy to stop Nottingham and Derby coalescing. Not so long ago, a bite was taken out because the landowner didn't know what to do with it. Farmland became housing.
Already developers are queuing up for a bite of the action. They will come forward with their own proposals and they are entitled to do that.
But Notts and Derbyshire, which meet at Toton sidings, need to stand back, do some crystal ball-gazing and decide what opportunities at Toton will best boost our economies. What are we really good at that, refined and taken forward, will sustain jobs and wealth?
Is this a unique opportunity to make the most of expertise that no one else has?
It is an opportunity not to be thrown away.
The first challenge is to confirm that Toton is the right place for the stop. On the face of it, the evidence points to Toton, roughly halfway between Nottingham and Derby. But should it be at East Midlands Airport and would that be a missed opportunity future generations might curse us for?
Certainly there should be a fast connection between Toton and EMA.
It would be sensible to bring both Notts and Derbyshire county councils together under the umbrella of D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership to look at opportunities. A masterplan is needed. Job creation should be the top priority.
Of course, it is early days but Derby has a strong expertise and history of engineering through Rolls-Royce and what is today Bombardier, a legacy of locomotive and rolling stock manufacturing dating back to 1840.
Nottingham is strong in its research and development through its two universities.
What other industries or sectors might want to be at Toton, seizing the opportunity to move from elsewhere in the country or overseas because of the region's strengths?
One thing is certain: Toton cannot just become an excuse to extend the suburbs of both cities. Jobs come first – and we start planning now.