HS2 ACTION GROUP
Parliamentary Select Committing Hearing – January 18th 2016
January 18 was a big day for our village. It was the day when the Parish Council represented by Chair George Page, Nigel Bankes, Malcolm Patterson and Clerk Bob Jarrett; George Tuthill, representing local business and Charles Holbech a local resident , went to the House of Commons to present Wardington’s petition. Its aim was to highlight the dangers and problems with HS2’s plan to route construction traffic through the village. We were very fortunate to have Charles Holbech, a barrister who actually lives off the A361, to make the presentation to the Select Committee. Our MP, Victoria Prentis, was there in support.
The background is that HS2 need to transport spoil from Greatworth and Turweston to Chipping Warden and Boddington. They propose to do this via the M40 and the A361 through Wardington. During the 2 year construction phase peak this would mean 2,400 HGV’s through the village every weekday and a proportion on Saturday mornings. Impossible we say. They say: “It’s an ‘A’ road, what’s the problem? Anyway, the peak is only for 2 years!”
During discussions leading up to the Hearing, HS2 reduced the number to 1,000 and said they might be able to reduce it by another 30% to 700. We still thought this excessive and had little confidence in how they arrived at their new figures and whether they would keep to them in any case. As a result we felt the Select Committee must hear our concerns. By this time it was well after 7.00 in the evening. It had been a long day for the Committee and for us. Nevertheless, Charles was called at 7.25 and, with great skill, presented our petition.
He introduced himself as representing Wardington Parish Council, not only as a resident but also in a professional capacity. He acknowledged the new assurance given by HS2 to limit the number of HGV’s to 500 each way and the further assurance to reduce the numbers further where practicable to do so. However, he stressed that 1,000 extra HGV’s per day through Wardington, together with existing traffic and light HS2 vehicles, was still an incredibly high number and that Wardington and surrounding villages would struggle to cope.
Charles continued by informing the Committee of the number of 2,444 HGV’s originally given by HS2 before the new assurances, an astonishing number. At peak periods the official capacity of the road would be exceeded and make their plan impossible. HS2 now recognised this, but it does bring their judgement into question.
Among the slides shown was a map of the various locations and proposed road routes for the HGV’s transporting spoil. From Turweston they plan to use the A43, M40 and A361. From Greatworth they plan to use the A422, Junction 11 of the M40 and the A361. The distances involved would be considerably greater than if they used the trace of the line itself. Charles said using internal haul roads must be a better solution. At this point Committee Member Sir Peter Bottomley asked HS2 to show on the map where a haul road between Greatworth and Turweston would run. In response he added: ‘If HS2 could solve the problem of getting spoil across the A43 this would result in a further reduction of traffic through Wardington’.
The next matter raised by Charles was that the peak traffic of over 2,000 vehicles a day originally calculated by HS2 was for 2 years. If this was reduced to 1,000 would the load simply be spread over more years? That is: no real reduction.
At this point the video produced by Sam Young showing traffic going through Wardington was played. It had a major impact. It really brought proceedings to life when the Committee and HS2 representatives saw the reality of what traffic through the village was already like. (Thank you Sam.) Charles commented on what was being shown: long traffic queues, lorries crossing the central line, lorries slowing down and stopping when passing on a bend, the close proximity of houses to the road and the narrow footpaths. George Tuthill commented on the difficulties caused to his nursing home for the residents, staff and visitors when trying to cross the road.
Charles said that what we wanted was for all the spoil to be transported up the line, both from Greatworth and Turweston, and that 700 HGV’s per day should be the maximum figure with other assurances in place to reduce the level further. Alternatively there should be a bypass, either permanent or temporary around Wardington, a distance of less than one mile. This would take all traffic from the centre of the village. To date there was no OCC highways programme for this and it had not been seriously considered by HS2 or costed. His last point was that we were seeking an assurance that there would be no HGV’s on Saturdays.
For HS2 James Strachan QC said they realized the number of HGV’s was significant. It was in the interests of both Wardington Parish Council and HS2 to reduce the traffic through Wardington. An assurance was given to seek to use haul roads to carry their traffic and look at the economic and technical feasibility of extending these between Greatworth and Turweston. He told the Committee that HS2 were aware of the extra miles involved in using the proposed highway routes and that there would be cost savings if this could be avoided.
He claimed there were various ways to achieve the mutual objectives of HS2 and Wardington and further claimed that the Parish Council were content with the thrust of assurances HS2 were offering. HS2 would look at reducing the fill at Boddington and/or look at reducing the rate of fill, thus extending the construction time. HS2 had considered a bypass around Wardington but there were complications, although not insurmountable, with the land being a registered ‘battle field site’. HS2 would revise their assurances, when approved. They would also advise the parties on whether they can find a way of getting spoil across the A43, but this may not be before the end of February when petitioning ends.
In conclusion Charles re-iterated that Wardington was still seeking an assurance of a reduced number, less than 1,000 per day and that the mitigating measures proposed by HS2 in the village itself could be dismissed as offering nothing.
On the following day our MP Victoria Prentis petitioned forcefully and persuasively for affected parts of her constituency. She highlighted the problems that Wardington, nearby villages like Williamscot, and Banbury itself will face and endorsed the points made by Charles Holbech on behalf of the Parish Council. We are very grateful for her support.