Concern is growing that a local Buckinghamshire beauty spot, including its lake, is to be filled-in with millions of tonnes of waste from the HS2 high speed rail development.
Thorney Park in Iver has been used by residents since the early 1990s but recently Iver Parish Council has said it has been informed that Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) is in talks with civil engineering contractors to use the country park to deposit inert spoil from infrastructure projects, including HS2, in return for £6 million and eventual landscaping.
As well as local residents, the issue has also caused frustration among anti-HS2 campaigners who feel their opposition to the project is being undermined by BCC potentially doing business with HS2 contractors.
Three weeks ago, BCC unanimously passed a motion to request that all HS2 works in the county be halted until a notice to proceed for the main works has been approved. This review has been delayed by the Government until December 2019.
Wendy Matthews, chair of Iver Parish Council, said:
“We believe that if BCC are asking for works to be stopped in the north of the county then they ought to be stopped in the south as well.”
Aylesbury Vale District Councillor Robin Stuchbury said:
“It’s difficult to comprehend how Buckinghamshire County Council can both support saving our environment from HS2, while seemingly considering receiving financial contributions to destroy areas of natural beauty. I would suggest we need careful scrutiny and robust answers.”
The relevant document on the BCC website, authored by the cabinet member for resources, and under the heading ‘Restoration Scheme’, states: “The scheme is predicated on the importation of inert spoil to the site from key infrastructure projects.”
Communication has been further confused by an interview given by BCC cabinet member for resources, John Chilver, with the BBC at the start of the year, where he said the following:
“We would not accept any proposal to fill in the lake. The retention of the lake is absolutely guaranteed.”
Some have been left wondering how this comment correlates with the current proposals being considered by the very same council.
Indeed, local resident and carp fisherman, Robin Dix, said:
“It will be a mountain of inert spoil. They say it’s for the restoration of the site but it’s a nature site and it doesn’t need restoring.”
Wendy Matthews, added:
“We had a community meeting with the contractor and BCC just before Christmas and in that they suddenly told us that it was not feasible for them to maintain even a shallow lake after the landfill has taken place.”
In a submission to BCC, Iver Parish Council wrote:
“Thorney Country Park is a public open space. The Country Parks team are supposed to maintain it but have neglected to do so for many years.
“It was originally landscaped and set up with a wonderful circular walk, bird hides and bird sanctuaries on the lake which have been very successful in attracting all manner of birds, and many birdwatchers. It is very popular with the local residents who are very protective of it, and who carry out some basic management.
“There is also a fishing contract let on the lake so we fail to see how it is a maintenance liability for Bucks.”
BCC Cabinet Member for Resources, John Chilver said:
“I fully understand the views of local residents and we are already in discussions with local representatives who are participating in shaping future plans for the park, subject to planning. On the one hand, restoration of the park could generate the County Council around £6 million, vital in today’s tough financial climate.
“However, we have made it clear during discussions to date that any plans will need to include all spoil coming in by the adjoining railway, and there will be a retained lake facility and a host of other landscaping and environmental safeguards. Proposals will also need full planning consent."
Regarding whether the waste may come from HS2, a BCC spokesperson said:
“Proposals include using material from infrastructure projects looking for sites to place surplus inert soil, to landscape the area and possibly provide bunds to deaden nearby motorway noise, but no sources for the spoil have yet been agreed.”
An online petition that calls for the prevention of BCC from using Thorney Park as a site for dumping waste had 3,747 at the time of going to press.