There’s none so deaf …

When I met the Transport Secretary during his visit to Warwickshire last September I formed the distinct impression that the environment would not be safe in his hands. Whilst browsing some of the HS2 videos on YouTube the other day, I found a clip of Cllr. Martin Tett speaking at a rally that was held at Great Missenden on 8th May 2011 (which may be viewed here); I was interested to hear that he had formed a similarly negative view from his own discussions with Philip Hammond. In Martin Tett’s words:

“We met four times with Philip Hammond, who is the Secretary of State for Transport. I have to tell you that I found each and every one of those meetings very, very depressing. As someone who has worked very actively for this Government, when we met what we found was that when we talked about environmental issues, when we talked about the Chiltern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, words were used like ‘it’s just fields’. We were told that ‘actually, it’s not exactly Constable country’. I have to tell you that I think it’s a lot better than Constable country.”

Notice that Martin Tett describes himself as “someone who has worked very actively for this Government”. He was elected as a Conservative Councillor to Buckinghamshire County Council in 2005 and became the Leader of the Council this year. For a prominent local Tory politician to attack a Conservative minister in this way is, to say the least, remarkable and indicative of the strength of the opposition to HS2 in Buckinghamshire.

Philip Hammond’s dismissive view of the value of the Chilterns, as reported by Martin Tett, will not be news to regular readers of my blogs. In “Not some Constable country” (which I posted on 19 Apr) I defended the Chilterns against the Transport Secretary’s unjustified slur and I agree strongly with Martin Tett’s evaluation.

Latter in his speech Cllr. Tett expanded on his feelings about the threat to the Chilterns:

“We’ve looked at the environmental case and I really resent, I really resent, that whenever anyone argues on the environment against this particular project they are labelled as ‘nimbys’. This is a nationally designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – nationally designated – and it is a national duty that we have to fight to protect that.”

Well said Cllr. Tett! I’ve had my own rant at the use of this offensive term to disguise the paucity of evidence to support the case for HS2 (How rude is that? posted on 1 May).

In my “Constable” blog I also described the term“A413 road corridor” used by the DfT as “somewhat disingenuous”; the purpose of this description is, of course, to convey the (false) impression that the impact of the HS2 trackway will be less by following this “corridor”. Martin Tett said his piece on this as well:

“They describe the A413 as a ‘major transport corridor’. Now I don’t know about you, but I drive along that route twice a day and I don’t think that the A413 is a ‘major transport corridor’. I don’t think that it’s equivalent to the M20 or the M2 down in Kent, which is what normally is described as a ‘major transport corridor’.”

He also described the reaction that he got from the Transport Secretary when trying to discuss the HS2 business case:

“When we exposed all of the flaws in the business case, we were told that we shouldn’t ‘nickel and dime’ the business case.”

If only it was just the odd “nickel and dime” that was in question; unfortunately the sums that are being disputed run to billions of pounds.

Martin Tett summed up his overall view of his discussions, as follows:

“This is not the way that a Secretary of State should seriously respond to really professional criticism of government proposals and I find that very, very depressing.”

Hard to disagree!

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