Warwickshire is set to endure more HS2 heartache after Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP today gave the go ahead to the extension of HS2 from Birmingham to Leeds, known as Phase 2b.
The route will scythe through the middle of two popular Warwickshire country parks and cause untold disruption to the current busy M42 Junction 10 where it meets the A5.
The Government has decided to move the line closer to the village of Austrey in North Warwickshire which will cause more severe devastation in comparison to the previous 2013 plans.
Both Kingsbury Water Park and Pooley Country Park will have the high speed rail line thundering through them and suffer the impact of a long and arduous construction phase before the line opens in 2033.
Cllr Peter Butlin, Warwickshire County Council’s Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for HS2, said: “We are gravely concerned about the impacts caused by the next phase of HS2, not least on our two popular country parks and the inevitable disruption to our communities’ everyday lives.
These late changes to the route have come as an unwanted surprise and initial information from the Government does not yet allay or mitigate our fears.”
A viaduct is planned over the lakes at Kingsbury Water Park, which attracts 400,000 visitors a year and is home to rare bird species, boat clubs, caravanners and power boat thrillseekers, providing jobs for 200 local people.
The visitor centre at Pooley Country Park, on the edge of Polesworth, is also on the path of the railway. The park is on the site of the former Pooley Hall Colliery and £1.5 million has been invested to transform a scarred industrial landscape into a valued community asset.
Cllr Butlin added: “Our country parks play a key role in local community life and feature some of Warwickshire’s finest accessible countryside and a variety of important wildlife. Both of these sites have strategic importance and immense value to the West Midlands. In particular, Kingsbury Water Park is the jewel in the crown of North Warwickshire, thriving at heart of the regional visitor economy.
“The county council is seriously concerned about the long term devastation and quality of life impacts on villages in North Warwickshire, particularly Austrey where the line has been moved even closer to people’s homes and will cause enormous disruption. The potential traffic chaos caused amongst the junction of the M42, the A5 and surrounding roads during construction is an issue which must not be underestimated.
“We are currently looking at the plans in detail and will use our experiences of dealing with HS2 Phase One to support our residents affected by Phase 2b. Whether people agree with the merits of HS2 or not, as a council we have to be pragmatic and work towards mitigating the worst impact of the project on Warwickshire, as we have demonstrated in our approach to Phase One of the scheme.”
The HS2 eastern leg to Leeds is proposed to run through North Warwickshire, affecting communities at Bodymoor Heath, Kingsbury, Birchmoor, Polesworth, Warton and Austrey.
The latest timetable is for construction to start on Phase 2b by 2026 and the railway to be operational in 2033. To enable the line to be built, hybrid bill legislation will need to be deposited to Parliament, scheduled in 2019.
The legislation to build the HS2 Phase One route from London to Birmingham is currently being considered by the House of Lords.
Construction is due to start in 2017 after Royal Assent has been achieved.
Cllr Brian Moss, Labour Group spokesman on HS2, said: “People in the Kingsbury area will have to suffer the impact of phases one and two of HS2 and we will continue to work to help protect all of North Warwickshire’s affected communities from the worst impacts of the next phase of the scheme. We value the local knowledge of our residents which will help us going forward.”
Liberal Democrat Group spokesman Cllr John Whitehouse added: “We have seen at first hand the negative impact HS2 has had on the lives of people in Warwickshire for over five years and we urge HS2 Ltd to learn from that experience and fully engage with our communities as soon as possible.”