Fighting for centre’s new home
HS2 means outdoor facility must move to Bucks
HILLINGDON’S muchvalued Outdoor Activity Centre (HOAC) will close in 2018 after moving sites to a neighbouring county, to make way for HS2.
HS2 Ltd have given the centre, used by 22,000 young people, a deadline to be off site so construction can take place by March 31, 2018.
After months of petitioning from residents, the HS2 Select Committee released their final report, which acknowledges the value of the amenity, with “wide support for the work it undertakes with children, including disadvantaged children”.
The report read: “Subject to planning approvals being obtained in sufficient time, the Committee would wish to see HOAC relocated to the Denham Quarry Site, if HOAC decide that that is preferable to staying put.”
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But Jeff Creak, Principle of HOAC, says the report’s wording is “disingenuous”.
He said: “They (HS2) have made it clear there’s no chance of us staying on site.
“We don’t have any options to relocate so it was a bit smoke and mirrors. There is no option – we have to move if they’re going to build HS2.”
As part of HS2’s route from Birmingham to London, a 13m high viaduct will cut through the centre’s 45 acre lake.
HS2 has agreed to relocate the centre whilst footing the bill for “tens of millions” of pounds, after petitioners gave their cases for mitigation at the Select Committee.
Meanwhile, HOAC will carry as on normal as is possible, whilst liaising with the high speed rail link, to obtain planning permission with neighbour county council, Buckinghamshire.
Mr Creak said: “We’ll be running a full season this year and a full season finishing at the end of October 2017, including weekends.
“But then from the end of October, through to March 31, the plan is we’ll be moving into a new site at Denham which HS2 would have prepared for us. We’re involved with HS2 with the building of the new site in terms of layout, buildings and structures and we’ve all been recently involved with Bucks trying to sort leases and get everybody on board.”
Public consultations will be held in March and April, in a bid to prove the centre has a lot of interest and still has a future for service users – who can come from Hillingdon and use the new site.
Mr Creak continued: “Hopefully these meetings will give the message that HOAC will be reborn on a new site.
“It’ll take a while to get it up to speed but it’ll be just as good, if not better.
“We’re fighting tooth and nail to get there – our youngsters in the community benefit from it so to close it, as the Select Committee recognised, would be completely wrong. We’re working as hard as we can, with HS2, to achieve our aim. It’s a very tight timescale and the real issue at the moment is to try and get planning permission approval.”
The future of HOAC teeters on Buckinghamshire County Council’s decision of whether or not to approve planning permission – likely to be made at the end of April. Mr Creak added: “If Bucks council say no, then it’s full stop. In the early days we explored lots of alternatives, all of which HS2 rejected. So there is no alternative as far as I’m aware, especially in the time scale.”
The two public consultation days, which will provide information about the plans, will be held on March 19, from 11am to 3pm at Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre, Dews Lane, Harefield, and April 9 at Denham Community Centre from 11am to 3pm.