How to spend £56 bil­lion

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Pine­hurst II, Pine­hurst Road, Farn­bor­ough Busi­ness Park, Farn­bor­ough, Hamp­shire GU14 7BF Tele­phone 01252 555072 www.coun­trylife.co.uk

When was the last time you heard some­one say ‘I’m re­ally keen on hs2’? Sup­port­ers of the new rail­way line— costed at £56 bil­lion so far—don’t show them­selves of­ten. In fact, it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine who wants the thing; lovers of the Chilterns’ beech­woods don’t, lo­cals who can’t ac­tu­ally board the train any­way don’t and even com­muters don't.

The re­build­ing of eus­ton will equal the ‘great earth­quake’ Dick­ens de­scribed when the rail­way ar­rived in the first place. Cre­at­ing hs2 will in­flict years of even greater mis­ery on the poor trav­ellers who use that ugly, in­con­ve­nient ter­mi­nus for lit­tle dis­cernible gain and the north of eng­land is less than ec­static about a route that, in the first in­stance, only stops out­side Birm­ing­ham. Im­proved cross-coun­try con­nec­tions and air-con­di­tion­ing is what we need.

Scrap hs2 and there could be, dare we say it, a div­i­dend, which could come in handy now there’s no eu money for such projects. We use the word cau­tiously—the Brexit div­i­dend has proved to be a will-o’-the-wisp —but here are 10 ideas for spend­ing it. 1 Bury the power lines blight­ing land­scapes. 2 In­vest in the sci­ence needed to re­move plas­tic from the oceans. The money spent on find­ing a so­lu­tion to this hor­ren­dous prob­lem would su­per­charge Bri­tish sci­ence.

3 Re­store the Cale­do­nian For­est. For all the beauty of the heather, the high­lands have lit­tle of their old bio­di­ver­sity, hav­ing been nib­bled bald by deer.

4 Bring back wild­flower mead­ows—the na­tional Trust has just bought 460 acres of Peak District meadow for a mere £2.15 mil­lion.

5 Redevelop out-of-town shop­ping cen­tres as hous­ing. You could keep the shops, but those car parks and re­tail sheds are a fla­grantly poor use of land at a time when we need to build more places to live.

6 De­velop a safe TB vac­cine for cows. We’re not against the bad­ger cull for now, but the vac­cine is long over­due and, as a bonus, an orally ad­min­is­tered form of birth con­trol for Brock—and grey squirrels—could save ar­gu­ment and the balance of na­ture.

7 Get so­lar pan­els out of fields, where they’re hideous, and, through grants, onto fac­tory, barn, ware­house and of­fice roofs.

8 en­sure ev­ery vil­lage has de­cent broad­band speeds. 9 Make the en­tire A303 a dual car­riage­way.

10 Fund ap­pren­tice­ships for Bri­tish crafts­men—and, while you’re at it, a school that teaches the val­ues of Clas­si­cism and tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­ture.

hs2 was some­one’s dream once. With a war chest of £56 bil­lion, sev­eral oth­ers could be re­alised.

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