MPs thought that the ‘unity of op­po­si­tion’ was demon­strated to the HS2 Se­lect Com­mit­tee dur­ing their visit on Mon­day. Che­sham and Amer­sham MP, Ch­eryl Gil­lan, gives her ac­count of the day

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

NO amount of look­ing at maps and plans can match the re­al­ity of see­ing at first hand where HS2 will run and what im­pact it will have on the Chilterns.

No pho­to­graph can equal the sight of the Chilterns Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty (AONB) in the full glory of sum­mer.

Read­ing a doc­u­ment can­not con­vey the thoughts of peo­ple who see their homes and lives af­fected by the HS2 pro­ject. Peo­ple from ev­ery com­mu­nity af­fected had done their ut­most to show just what a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact it will have.

The land­scape it­self be­came a silent wit­ness, show­ing the way that the cur­rent bored tun­nel would emerge on the crown of a hill in an an­cient wood­land; the wood­land, hedgerows and the an­cient Saxon lanes that would be de­stroyed; and how the frag­ile chalk streams and rivers, the sub­ject of so much con­ser­va­tion work, would be threat­ened.

The visi­tors saw a brown trout jump­ing; a black swan on the pond at Lit­tle Mis­senden; and a red kite ap­peared like magic, soar­ing over the vil­lage of Hyde Heath. This, the only AONB on the HS2 route, de­serves bet­ter pro­tec­tion.

Coun­cils, com­mu­ni­ties and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, with my sup­port as their MP, demon­strated the unity of op­po­si­tion. Their view is that the cur­rent plans do not go nearly far enough to pro­tect the AONB. They dis­agree with the view of HS2 Ltd that the cur­rent mit­i­ga­tion is suf­fi­cient. Only 45 % of the HS2 route is cur­rently in a deep bore tun­nel. The re­main­ing 55 % is above ground in shal­low cut­tings, across viaducts, or in the ‘cut and cover’ tun­nels, the con­struc­tion of which causes sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age.

The se­lect com­mit­tee mem­bers heard about the full tun­nelling op­tions and all the work of lo­cal groups in pro­vid­ing ev­i­dence about these. The vis­it­ing MPs were also re­minded about the in­com­ing gov­ern­ment’s pledges to pre­serve AONBs and frag­ile en­vi­ron­ments.

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