Members of the House of Commons HS2 Bill Committee visited Lichfield yesterday (16th September) to see for themselves the impact the line will have on the area. Chairman Robert Syms MP, Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Ian Mearns MP and Michael Thornton MP met petitioners and other locals to see for themselves at various locations to see how HS2 will plough through Staffordshire countryside. The Committee travelled south to north accompanied by House of Commons Clerks, officers from Lichfield District and Staffordshire County Councils, a representative from Stop HS2, and advisors from HS2 Limited. They had spent the morning visiting the west midlands.
They visited Hints, Flats Lane, Packington Moor Farm, an overview near Whittington, Whittington Heath Golf Club, Cappers Lane Cruising Club, Streethay House Farm, Fradley Business Park, the Trent and Mersey Canal near Fradley Junction, Ashton Hayes and where the HS2 line will split to connect with the west coast main line.
“The Committee took their work seriously and spent time observing the local geography and the impact the line will have on the area” says Michael Fabricant. “They also had time to talk to locals. I accompanied them in their coach and was able to point out how the height of the line is so damaging to the Lichfield area. I made the bus stop on Darnford Lane at a high point so they could look down on Lichfield and the A38 and I explained the need for the line to go under the road and the railway line rather than over it.
“An inspired visualisation was organised by a local farmer when we visited Streethay House Farm. To the amazement of the Committee, they flew a drone complete with GPS so that committee members could see for themselves the height of the line above the ground and then the height of the overhead train power lines over the fields. Several Committee members commented to me that it was one of the most effective demonstrations they have seen.
“With the weather being so sunny, Lichfield was shown off to its best and speaking with them afterwards, Committee members were left in no doubt as to how damaging the height of the line with all the necessary embankments, spoil dumps, etc will have on the Lichfield environment and how this can be mitigated by tunnelling under the A38.
“The next steps are for the Committee to sit in Westminster and hear from the petitioners in a formal session unless HS2 agrees in advance to the petitioners’ requests. I believe that HS2 Limited might well agree to changes in the route that will protect the Trent & Mersey Canal, but engineering studies still need to be done to determine if HS2 Limited will agree to tunnel beneath the A38. The Committee fully understand that the lowering of the line at that point would have knock-on benefits both south and north of the line.
“My only regret regarding the visit, was that as the Committee was enchanted by its visit to the canal and adjoining cottage and they were keen after a whole day visiting the west midlands to visit the Swan at Fradley Junction for some down time after I had told them I would buy a round – I am not sure if that counts as some form of bribe, but if so, I plead ‘guilty’, they were unable to do so because they had to catch the 7.13pm train back down to London from Lichfield Trent Valley station.”
Photographs show the Committee at Whittington Heath Golf Club and locals pointing out the impact of the route to Chairman Robert Syms MP and Ian Mearns MP at Ashton Hayes.