HS2: It’s not over yet

The campaigning group Stop HS2 is urging those against the controversial rail line to ‘keep on fighting’ despite the fact the Hybrid Bill has now passed its second reading.

Although dozens of Tory MPs defied a three-line whip to vote against it, cross-party support ensured that construction work moved a step closer to starting in 2017. ‘Everyone opposed to HS2 has to keep on fighting,’ says campaign manager Joe Rukin. ‘The MPs who spoke for HS2 were sickeningly ill-informed. You have to remember-as [former Shadow Transport Secretary] Frank Dobson keeps pointing out-that the original plans for HS1 got all the way to committee stage and the committee threw them out. That is why everyone concerned about HS2 must petition against it.’

Boris Johnson enraged campaigners when quoted by Total Politics magazine as saying: ‘They’re [HS2’s opponents] not campaigning for forests, they’re not campaigning for butterflies. They pretend to be, obviously, but what they’re really furious about is that their house prices are getting it.’ He added that it was ‘tragic’ to worry about ancient woodland ‘when actually there’s no tree in this country that’s more than 200 years old’.

Hilary Allison of the Woodland Trust, comments that this statement shows ‘breathtaking ignorance’ and that at least 84 ancient woodlands would be damaged. Paul Wilkinson of the Wildlife Trusts, which has produced a vision for creating new ‘natural’ areas along the line, adds: ‘HS2 will have a massive impact. Fortunately, MPs have decided that the HS2 Select Committee can consider how to mitigate for the loss of these muchloved woods.’

Neither Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin nor his opposite number, Mary Creagh, mentioned the effect on people-the CLA predicts that some farmers will be ruined. CLA president Henry Robinson says: ‘HS2 Ltd has demonstrated a total lack of interest in the plight of landowners and businesses. Many are still waiting to see if their businesses will survive.’ The CLA’s chief surveyor, Andrew Shirley adds: ‘It’s extremely difficult to see your business ruined at the hand of an unsympathetic acquirer using antiquated compulsory- purchase powers that give you no say.’

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