Account of HS2 Select Committee Petition

  |  Published: Nov 20th 2015

We are Andrew and Sue Hetherington and we live in Wharf Road, Wendover.

On Tuesday, 3rd November 2015 we were called to present our petition to the HS2 Select Committee at Westminster.  We had prepared a presentation (like most petitioners do) which had to be supplied to HS2 Ltd by a set deadline before the appearance.  On the day, we were presented with a rather grand folder containing our presentation.  It only tells the story we wanted to recount in pictures but we thought it might be of some interest to our neighbours to see it.  You could have watched us on the day if you'd had the forethought to watch the parliament channel on TV (but we're probably glad if you missed it!) A transcript of what goes on is apparently kept somewhere or other but we don't know where.

The folder is now in the library, on "the HS2 table" .  The gist of what we said follows, but first we would like to record thanks to those who helped all we simple mortals prepare for such a serious event. We thank in particular the "POP group", or the Partners on Petitioning without whose help we would not have a had a clue how to petition at Westminster.  Also all associated with Wendover Stop HS2 who have been tirelessly working to get the best for Wendover for 5 long years now.

(Slide 1) This slide shows us with Nicki Chapman in 2011 filming "Escape to the Country".  This was our reaction to the bombshell news that HS2 was coming our way.  We were serious about moving (to the lovely Dales which we considered safe from monster trains) but the death by suicide of Sue's beloved brother changed everything and moving became impossible in the aftermath.

(Slides 2 and 3) The Select Committee had made it plain that they were not prepared to hear the "same old same old" over and over again and presentations had to be personal, not generalisations.  So, we said that we were especially worried about what the so-called "Green Tunnel" would do to the water courses around the village, the personal angle being that the Wendover Canal is at the bottom of our garden.  We also said we grabbed any opportunity, including the Select Committee, to be heard as in our opinion democracy has been poorly served – from the hybrid bill through to a disappointing public performance from our MP.

(Slides 4 to 11)  Sue spoke about the natural environment and the deep concern that the "green tunnel" will interfere with the waters around Wendover, to the extent that the Wendover Arm Canal dries up, with all the repercussions that will have. Both as a householder living by the canal and as a volunteer working on Weston Turville Reservoir she has a stake in objecting to the damage that the drying up will have.  It would be heartbreaking if our stretch of the Wendover Arm turns into a dry ditch and all the richness of wildlife dries up with the water,  As a member of the Wendover Arm Trust, she also objects to the waste of time and money that will be caused to the doomed project to rewater the Wendover Arm.

 She also spoke about wildlife sites, such as Finemere, to the north of the county under threat.  She is a member of North Bucks Bat Group so feels entitled to comment on sites away from her "backyard". She also feels entitled to comment given she is a life member of BBOWT.  She is also aware that BBOWT are not content with the ecological surveys and mitigation proposed by HS2 Ltd.

(Slides 12 to 18) were Andrew's illustrating his concerns about the drying up of the water affecting leisure activities.  He is also concerned that HS2 blight is killing the commercial heart of the village.    Many leisure activities are dependant on the waters – we have seen canoeists in the past on the canal and fishing is a popular pastime.  Many footpaths will be lost, or will be so unpleasant to use that they will fall into decline.  This applies across the board, from the smallest lane to the Ridgeway long distance path which actually runs down our High Street.  We have recently seen Sally Turner's antique shop and Time men's and ladies wear close.  Our bank is only open part time now – will HS2 be the final nail in the coffin of the last remaining bank in the village?

(Slides 19 to 21) We ended on a positive note.  As we were not "allowed" to say we wanted HS2 to be scrapped, we asked for things in the gift of the Select Committee.  The main ask was of COURSE for the "Chilterns Long Tunnel" in place of the so-called "Green Tunnel".  We then thought about how Wendover might benefit from public projects under the £30million "Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF).  We see the Wendover Arm tow path, which was refurbished many years ago, is now in a terrible state of disrepair.  If it was restored, the public benefit would be enormous and would also have health benefits if it encouraged more people to walk.  We also note that the "railway crossing bridge" is suffering from vandalism.  Another problem is that if and when the rewatering reaches it, it is too "flat" for boats to pass under it.  We therefore also suggested that it be rebuilt as a proper replica canal bridge.  Both of these suggestions were well received and HS2's barrister said they were just the sort of thing HS2 wanted to support and the request should come forward from a community group, such as Wendover Parish Council.  If anyone else agrees with our idea, may we ask you to let Wendover Parish Council know.

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