Anger and concern over impact of nine-month closure of main road to Southam due to HS2 works
Residents of Southam and the surrounding area are gravely concerned over HS2's annoucnement that it will close a main road to the town for nine months in three weeks' time.
The high-speed rail company announced on Friday that it will need to close part of the A425 between Southam and Leamington from near the Dallas Burston Polo Grounds to the Ufton Crossroads until July 2021.
Southam councillor Tony Bromwich has written to Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright and Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western to express his concerns over the closure.
He said: "As you are both aware the road is the main artery for not only residents of Southam and surrounding villages but from the likes of Daventry as well.
"The impact of this closure will not only be for Southam and the surrounding villages but for Leamington Spa as well, the closure not only effects commuter traffic but school traffic and consumer traffic going to and from Leamington Spa.
"Given that the retail and service sectors in Leamington Spa are the predominant destination for Southam and surrounding villages it is my belief it will have a significant impact.
"The impact will also be felt by local businessses in Southam and the surrounding villages and all the signs in the world provided by HS2 are not going to encourage economic recovery in one of the hardest hit areas because of Covid-19. I fear this will be the final straw for many of those businesses.
"Yesterday, I attended an online meeting with HS2 along with fellow district, county and parish councillors and clerks.
"All were devestated by this announcement especially as we had all been lead to believe that the plan was to re-route the A425 with a temporary road as recently as last month.
"HS2 confirmed that they had been planning this for many months in secret and had wilfully withheld the information.
"It is claimed that it is because of costs and a money making exercise. When challenged what the cost price of a temporary road to a nine-month closure was, they could not provide answers.
"I would say in this matter that the local economic costs and costs to the taxpayers versus the HS2 savings would not be benefical in favour of HS2 and will end up costing the taxpayers more because of job losses in Southam, surrounding villages and Leamington.
"HS2 admitted that they have not consulted any businesses and will only start to do so in the next couple of weeks, this is simply too late for businesses to adjust, they will not compensate businesses for their losses and already since the meeting yesterday local businesses are saying to me is it worth carrying on.
"First Covid-19 and now this is leaving many business owners totally distraught.
"HS2 claimed to have discussed with the police, ambulance and fire services about the road closures.
"This brings up several issues, firstly and most importantly HS2 stated yesterday at the meeting they could not guarantee the Welsh Road remaining open due to their vehicles damaging the road.
"This will seriously impact on ambulance and paramedic response times and lead to potential loss of lives.
"As it stands the current state of the Welsh Road is not in a good state and the ambulance service response times would be seriously impacted in any event, speaking to my brother who is an ex paramedic and now lecturer at Gloucester University, there is no way the ambulance service willmeet their response times with this nine month road closure.
"Any proposed diversions would lead to significant delays and lead to potential lose of life, is saving money for HS2 more important than lives?
"Police response times will also suffer servely in a rural community already suffering from a lack of overall police presence and I fear it will become a criminal charter through no fault of anyone but HS2 and their ill conceived plans.
"The arrogance and contempt that came across from the HS2 representatives yesterday was quite frankly disgraceful and certainly not worthy of a publicly funded project.
"There was no attempt to engage, no attempt to want to mitigate issues or find solutions or compromise.
"I strongly urge both of you to contact me as a matter of urgency to discuss this matter and the make representations to stop this closure as a matter of urgency, we have extremely limited time."
Kenilwrth councillor and mayor Richard Dickson has also raised concerns about the closure.
He has contacted HS2 to ask why the annoucnement was made with such "little notice", he has asked why there is a need to close the road in both directions for the entire length of time the work takes place.
He added: "The proposed isoceles-shaped diversion via Princethorpe is huge.
"What provision has been made for emergency vehicle access?"
Southam resident Nicky Marshall-Thornhill said: "I travel from Southam to Warwick every day for work as do many other people from the town.
"This road is a main route for many travellers every day, and their ‘diversion’ takes me 14 miles out of my way.
"That’s twice the actual journey distance.
"HS2 are seemingly above the law and are effectively doing what they like around Southam.
"I have recently been using Welsh Road West however over the past two weeks they have been randomly closing and opening sections of that road (with no forewarning) and that has caused unnecessary diversions as well.
"Their trucks along welsh road west have ruined the surface of that road and the verge - funnily enough a small country lane is not built for a truck motorcade every day!! Even trees that are still actually standing are being wrecked by trucks with dumpers on that then bash in to them.
"Over the past few weeks I have watched dismayed as they have systematically torn down trees and created a flat sparse moon like landscape which will never recover - all for a railway that no one other than The Tories wants.
"They have cut down way more trees at the roundabouts on to the Fosse Way at Offchurch and Long Itchington than is needed.
"They have no excuse other than ‘that’s what their GPS says’.
"The site at welsh road west/long Itchington wood at night is so lit up you could probably see it from space - it’s like there is a city being built there.
"I am incandescent with rage that HS2 as a company think that they are above the law and can do whatever they like.
"HS2 are ruining our countryside and causing utter chaos and it is time that Jeremy Wright found some backbone and came and saw the devastation and chaos this is causing for Southam and put a stop to this insane madness that is ruining our countryside for good."
Jeremy Wright has said: "I am very concerned about the disruption the closure of the A425 for this long will cause and about the short notice of it that has been given, which is another example of poor communication on the part of HS2 Ltd.
"I will be discussing the road closures across the area with HS2 Ltd and its contractors at the forum I chair next week."
HS2 has said: "HS2 takes its responsibility to impacted communities very seriously, and we try to minimise disruption to local people and businesses wherever possible.
"Closing the A425, rather than the alternative proposal of building a diversion road, significantly reduces the environmental impact of construction, the scale of work required, and the volume of construction traffic in the local area.
"This improved plan also cuts the amount of time HS2’s contractors Balfour Beatty Vinci will be working in this area.
“HS2 is already playing a pivotal role in helping Britain’s economic recovery as the country emerges from lockdown.
"There are 10,000 people already working on the HS2 project and we recently announced a further 22,000 jobs across the country, including 7,000 in the Midlands, at a time when we need them most.”
For more information about the road closure click here.