Centre’s future up in the air as HS2 backs viaduct
But hope resurfaces of moving lake activity hub at lower cost
THE under-threat Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre (HOAC) continues to face an uncertain future in the wake of the decision to run the High Speed 2 rail route through the middle of the lake where it is based.
Senior staff have not yet lost hope, as talks are taking place with the aim of moving the widely used centre to Denham Quarry at a reduced cost.
In October, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that the plans to move the centre from its current site between Uxbridge and Harefield had been abandoned because of spiralling costs.
This was accompanied by the news that the transport secretary Chris Grayling had agreed to run the HS2 route through the middle of the lake on a viaduct, rather than the alternative option of a tunnel.
HOAC’s management responded with a letter to the secretary of state, warning that HOAC would be forced to close under the current plans.
Principal of the centre, Neil Maddock, told getwestlondon: “HOAC has been in limbo for the past five years and unfortunately we continue to be uncertain in our future.
“Thanks to help from London Borough of Hillingdon we have been able to re-look at a potential move to Denham, but our future is far from secure.”
There is some good news for users of the centre, as it will be running as normal throughout the 2017 season. Mr Maddock said he hopes that HOAC’s future from 2018 and beyond will become more clear this year.
In October 2015, the DfT revealed the possibility that HOAC could be moved to Denham Quarry by 2018, but this was abandoned after the cost more than doubled to £55million because of construction, land costs and compensation.
Mr Maddock has said that HOAC, Hillingdon Council and HS2 have reached an agreement to re-examine the possibility of moving to Denham Quarry with a budget of £26.5million
After the announcement that HOAC would not be relocated, a DfT spokesman said: “Following an independent review, the Transport Secretary has agreed with 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 Denham Quarry, it has now become clear that escalating costs mean it won’t be a sustainable long term option.”
Instead the government suggested an alternative plan to keep HOAC at its current site, but this was not welcomed.
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.”
Hillingdon Council declined to comment.
TRAIN LINK: An artist’s impression aerial view of Harefield lakes showing Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre and the Colne Valley viaduct
SETTING SAIL: Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre offers sports from archery to windsurfing