HS2 Select committee visit by chair of HPC

Brian Thompson  |  Published: Jun 15th 2015
White Elephant
The HS2 White Elephant observes the Select Committee at the Thursday Market on the Manor Waste, Wendover

On Thursday 11 June Bob Duggan and I had the honour of joining the HS2 select committee tour of Wendover.   From our perspective the whole point of the visit was to convince the select committee that we needed a bored tunnel. I think we did as well as we could have.

The day was gorgeous, lovely sunny and bright – the perfect day to see the Chilterns AONB. As regards the bus having met  the challenge of ‘German’ towels and sunbeds before I knew that you had to grab your seat early. Luckily for me selective deafness and a desire to sit down meant I ended up in row 3. A perfect position just behind the select committee and in front of HS2. You did not need a microphone to get your point across if they were missing something important. Not that that was needed really. In the front were the HS2 Engineer and David Lidington sharing both a pair of seats and a microphone – one giving a very dry description of what they were proposing to do and David highlighting the issues involved.  David did a great job of articulating the issues and required little assistance from me. My role seemed to evolve into telling the driver where to go – which was probably just as well.  At many of the stops only the committee got off the coach, it allowed them to talk to locals and individuals without the time spent in everyone getting off and on the bus.  At this point I need to say that the  select committee were very fixated on time and schedules, with Sir Peter Bottomley leading the pack. You can understand why when  5 mins here and 5 mins there add up to an over run of 2 hours by the end of the day. Sir Peter had a whistle for signalling a return to the bus which he used at some stops.

The stops went  well, the turn out was great and you were all polite, the select committee were happy to hear your points.   The stop at St Mary’s went really well –the 3 presentations complemented each other. Coming away from St Mary’s one of the select committee said this was the best presentation they had had so far. I guess having 300 people sitting listening quietly to the noise of a high speed train was very powerful. I commend the headmaster of Chiltern Way Federation - in a short period he made a great impact. After that a video of the proposed HS2 line passing Wendover was shown.

A stop at Bacombe Lane and then the High Street. It was great for the select committee to see a thriving market and equally important to see  the DoE students  hiking down the High Street. The Ellesborough road stop gave opportunity for people living there to voice their concerns. There was also a presentation by Edward Mogford on the horrible impact it would have on their  farming business.

At Combe Hill the view was spectacular. After the presentation  the select committee continued on their tour and I left the group. I had a brief chat with David Lidington who was very complimentary about the whole Wendover visit and thought we had made a very strong and favourable impression on the Select Committee.

Now I would like to thank everyone who turned out at the various stops, and especially those who worked and contributed to  the success of this day. It was real teamwork and nice to see the community come together in common cause. So thank you all who helped make this a success.

I have heard that some  people liked the DVD that was shown. The story behind it is quite interesting and points to very local connection. Mitch and Andy from Effortless Motion media had recently moved to Wendover and volunteered to help. Which was just as well as we only had 7 day’s  notice that the Select committee were coming. So there followed some hectic activity. Shooting the drone footage, writing the script, finding still images, recording the narrative, editing the film and putting on a DVD. Mitch and Andy did a great job , and I would also like to  thank Don Knight who read the narrative so well. The end result although rushed looks great –  it is a tribute to teamwork. Now if anyone would like a copy they are available at cost £5 from the Wendover Parish office.

Looking forward the select committee is planning to hear the various tunnel promoters just before the summer recess. So it is highly unlikely any individual petitioner will be heard before Sept/Oct. Therefore  most people can enjoy the summer break.

In my mind there is only one reason why they would want to hear the various tunnel promoters before they go on holiday. That is to decide if we are going to get a tunnel through the Chilterns or not. Given I am an optimist the only reason to do this is if they decide to give us a tunnel then a number of petitioners will fall away, thus saving them time. So just maybe, their positive impressions of Wendover will help them make the right decision. Let’s hope so.

Brian Thompson

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