HS2, the Ox-Cam expressway, and the inevitable resulting damage to the region's countryside and wildlife, have been key issues for many people in North Bucks in this General Election, with work on the high speed rail line already beginning to change the landscape.
Voters in both Aylesbury and Buckingham have been faced with the unenviable scenario of having their local candidates pledging to fight for the county's areas of natural beauty, while realising that central party policies are broadly in support of infrastructure projects in the area, with the notable exception of The Green Party regarding HS2.
In their manifesto, the Conservatives, who won the General Election, state regarding HS2:
“HS2 is a great ambition, but will now cost at least £81bn and will not reach Leeds or Manchester until as late as 2040. We will consider the findings of the Oakervee review into costs and timings and work with leaders of the Midlands and the North to decide the optimal outcome.”
So what do some of our leading politicians and activists think the General Election result means for the North Bucks countryside?
Leader of campaign group Anti-HS2 SOC (Save Our Countryside), Frank Mahon, said to The Bucks Herald this morning:
“I have to go by what I've heard on the doorstep and the only one who gave me any hope as an anti-HS2 protester was Greg Smith. You've got a guy from the Liberal Democrats who turns up on my doorstep and says he has always been in favour of and voted for HS2. Then he comes out on television and says he's anti-HS2. How could I believe him in a million years? How could I tell people who were looking at me for advice to vote Liberal Democrat? As for the Labour Party, well he never came near us. We never got a leaflet and he was never seen in the village. So where was I supposed to go?"
District councillor and Labour Party member, Robin Stuchbury, said:
“Clearly the election is a tragedy for the Labour Party. I'm also concerned it will be a tragedy for those people who have been out campaigning against HS2. And I'm truly concerned that with such a large majority, the question of the expressway may now not be discussed and that the environmental question, upon which I was fortunate to talk with young people about at the local school, will not be addressed.”
Bucks County Councillor, Conservative, and prominent anti-HS2 campaigner Charlie Clare said:
"I'm really hopeful that Boris Johnson's huge majority will give him scope to do something brave and cancel HS2. We know there's been a split between the Chair and the deputy chair of the Oakervee Report and I'm really interested to see how that is dealt with. I still strongly believe that the best thing we can do with our money is to spend it on other infrastructure projects and that HS2 has no business case and I hope that the Government will agree."
Mark Bosworth, a spokesperson for Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) said:
“We are urging MPs to back an ambitious new Environment Act with legally binding targets to restore nature, a powerful, independent environmental watchdog, and a Nature Recovery Network to protect and join-up important places for wildlife.
“We’re facing a climate and ecological emergency. Wildlife is in serious decline, constrained to shrinking, isolated pockets, and the UK has become one of the most nature-depleted nations in the world. By protecting and restoring our natural world we can ensure wildlife populations recover, we can help soak up carbon to tackle future climate change and we can enable our landscapes, cities and towns to cope with the changing climate, by holding water, providing shade and absorbing pollution.
We can increase everyone’s access to nature to improve our mental and physical health.”
HS2, the 345-mile high speed rail line set to run from London to Leeds and Manchester via Birmingham, is the subject of an independent review after costs and construction timelines ran significantly over those originally forecast. The results of the review are imminent.
The Ox-Cam expressway, a 30-mile road linking the M40 to the M1, is still in the planning and consultation stage with work unlikely to begin for another five years, and the road to be completed in 2030.