Ac­tiv­i­ties cen­tre forced into clo­sure

De­ci­sion made not to re­lo­cate pop­u­lar fa­cil­ity af­ter HS2 works

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - by Alexan­der Ballinger alexan­der.ballinger@trin­i­tymir­ Twit­ter: @Get_Bucks

A GOVERN­MENT de­ci­sion not to re­lo­cate Hilling­don Out­door Ac­tiv­i­ties Cen­tre (HOAC) be­cause of the HS2 rail ser­vice will force the fa­cil­ity to close.

The sug­ges­tion to move the cen­tre to Buck­ing­hamshire from its cur­rent home in Den­ham was put for­ward a year ago, but the Depart­ment for Trans­port (DfT) an­nounced on Thurs­day Septem­ber 20 it had been aban­doned.

In the wake of the de­ci­sion, HOAC man­age­ment has writ­ten to the trans­port sec­re­tary Chris Grayling to say the cen­tre will close be­fore HS2 work starts if the de­ci­sion is not re­versed.

The let­ter, signed by chair­man of the Colne Val­ley Youth and Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion, Karen Smag­gas­gale, states: “Since the first visit by HS2 to HOAC’s site, we have been clear that HOAC can­not co-ex­ist with HS2.

“The dis­rup­tion to the cen­tre dur­ing con­struc­tion and dur­ing op­er­a­tion due to ad­verse noise ef­fects and the vis- ual im­pacts the con­struc­tion work and sub­se­quent viaduct will ren­der HOAC’s op­er­a­tions un­vi­able.

“If the de­ci­sion re­mains not to re­lo­cate HOAC then the cen­tre will close be­fore any op­er­a­tion starts.”

HOAC was set up as a youth ed­u­ca­tional char­ity in 1992 in part­ner­ship with Hilling­don Coun­cil and pro­vides out­doors ac­tiv­i­ties for schools and groups.

The 45-acre lake is used for kayak­ing, ca­noe­ing, sail­ing and wind­surf­ing, while land ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude archery, cav­ing, fenc­ing and kart­ing.

Two key de­ci­sions on the fu­ture of HOAC were made by the DfT last week when the build­ing of a viaduct, rather than a tun­nel through the Colne Val­ley, was con­firmed as well as the de­ci­sion not to re­lo­cate the out­door cen­tre.

A DfT spokesper­son said: “Fol­low­ing an in­de­pen­dent re­view, the trans­port sec­re­tary has agreed with the HS2 Com­mons Se­lect Com­mit­tee that the plan for a viaduct, rather than a tun­nel, in the Colne Val­ley is best value for money.

“Also, de­spite our very best ef­forts to re­lo­cate the Hilling­don Out­door Ac­tiv­i­ties Cen­tre to Den- ham Quarry, it has now be­come clear that es­ca­lat­ing costs mean it won’t be a sus­tain­able long-term op­tion.”

The com­pany be­hind the rail link to Birm­ing­ham and the north of Eng­land, HS2 Ltd, said last Oc­to­ber HOAC could be re­lo­cated to Den­ham Quarry near Uxbridge by 2018.

Ac­cord­ing to the DfT, the an­tic­i­pated cost of re­lo­cat­ing HOAC had more than dou­bled to £55 mil­lion be­cause of con­struc­tion, land costs and com­pen­sa­tion ar­range­ments.

In­stead the govern­ment has sug­gested an al­ter­na­tive plan to keep HOAC at its cur­rent site, but this has not been wel­comed.

Chair of Hilling­don Against HS2, Keri Bren­nan, said: “It’s dis­gust­ing. They let peo­ple be­lieve there was go­ing to be this al­ter­na­tive. They’re say­ing we can run an ac­tiv­ity cen­tre in the mid­dle of a build­ing site.”

The let­ter from HOAC to Chris Grayling goes on to say: “HOAC is cur­rently in an ideal lo­ca­tion of­fer­ing peace and seren­ity so close to ma­jor ar­eas of pop­u­la­tion, a build­ing site and sub­se­quent rail­way will re­move the key at­tributes that makes the cen­tre work for all of its users.”

HOAC has re­quested a firm start date for HS2 work so they can ‘make pro­vi­sion to ter­mi­nate staff con­tracts, can­cel fu­ture group book­ings and in­form mem­bers and users so they can make al­ter­na­tive ar­range­ments’.

The DfT spokesper­son added: “De­spite be­ing one of the largest con­struc­tion projects in Eu­rope, the govern­ment and HS2 Ltd are com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure HS2 is an en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble trans­port scheme and that we min­imise the ef­fects on the coun­try­side and com­mu­ni­ties as much as pos­si­ble.”

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