South Northamptonshire village residents attend HS2 information event to express their concerns

HS2 artist's impression
HS2 artist's impression

South Northamptonshire residents' dislike and disapproval of the HS2 project were reiterated at a community information event held at Sulgrave Manor on Thursday evening.

The event was part-organised by two Sulgrave residents, Lucy Apperly and Ken Cristy, to offer residents the chance to pose their questions and put their concerns to HS2 Ltd representatives.

Of particular interest were the effects on the amount of traffic and the travel routes to Brackley, Banbury and other nearby towns when diversions are put in place as a result of the A4525 being intersected by the railway line.

Some residents were also concerned about the emergency services' access to villages and hospitals in light of the diversions and increased presence of HGVs, while others retained long-standing complaints about the negligible benefits to the area and its landscape.

“None of us like it, none of us want it," said South Northamptonshire Councillor for the Washington ward Peter Davies.

“It doesn’t have any benefit. It will disfigure some beautiful countryside.

“Another thing is all of the plans I’ve seen show ever-escalating costs, not a penny of which will be returned whatsoever until the project is complete.

“If they had gone to improve the existing railway system, that could have been done in less time and at a fraction of the costs."

In terms of the impact on Sulgrave, the proposed line cuts across a major access road, the B4525, which would impair residents' access to amenities and transport connections in Brackley and Banbury.

Simon Matthews, interface manager at HS2 contractors CEK, said that any new roads that are created for diversions will be a similar or higher standard than the ones currently in place.

In response to the concerns of residents, Mr Matthews explained that in order to create a diversion a due process had to be followed which would include looking at the effects the new route would have on things such as access to the likes of Brackley and Banbury.

He spoke about a traffic liaison group which will be made up of businesses, the emergency services, the highway authority and other involved parties, and they will assist in making decisions on when the diversions would be put in place, with an eye on the effects they will have.

He said it was highly unlikely that the highway authority - who have the final say on diversions - would approve a new road or diversion if it posed a risk of isolating villages from hospitals and other amenities.

One disgruntled resident - who did not want to be named - called the HS2 project outdated, claiming that people were more than happy to conduct business meetings via video links nowadays, whereas the high-speed project had been concocted with the aim of bringing firms in London closer to Birmingham and Manchester with reduced travel times.

He said that thanks to advancements in technology the need for face-to-face meetings have been reduced.

Uma Shanker, project director at HS2 Ltd, was keen to highlight the grants available to the community and businesses who would be affected during the construction phase.

Applications for up to £75,000 can be made with the money put towards things like a village defibrillator or community transport buses, both relevant if emergency services and existing transport routes are disrupted by construction.

It can also be put towards developing, improving or refurbishing of pedestrian, equestrian or cycle access; sports and recreational facilities; access to public open space; and historic buildings or monuments.