Focusing on the issues

In the autumn of 2010 Lizzy Williams walked the whole of the Phase 1 HS2 route. In doing so she learnt a lot about the impacts that the proposal, if implemented, would have on people, property, ecology and landscape. Now you can have a similar experience yourself, without risking foot blisters and even without the need to get out of your armchair.

This opportunity comes courtesy of photographer and Chiltern Society member, Keith Hoffmeister. Keith spent six months travelling up and down the proposed HS2 Phase 1 route, talking to action groups, collecting photographs taken by action group members and adding to this with his own photography. The results can be seen in a recently-released DVD HS2 and its impact along the route from London to Birmingham and the West Midlands.


The DVD is narrated by Geoffrey Palmer, OBE, who is a Chilterns resident. He is a familiar face from TV and films, particularly for hit series such as As Time Goes By, Butterflies and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, but he is also a much sought after voiceover artist. His distinctive voice delivers a stark but matter-of-fact dialogue, without exaggeration or excessive emotion; it is left to a montage of still photographs and maps to get a very strong message across, which is achieved very effortlessly.

The video covers the whole of the Phase 1 route in about forty minutes, broken down into four bite-size sections. By way of a “taster” you can view the first couple of minutes of the video here.

We learn from the video that, if the first phase of HS2 goes ahead as currently proposed, it will involve: hundreds of lost homes, particularly in London: putting 160 recognised wildlife sites at risk: directly damaging ancient woodlands, and indirectly affecting others: diverting 13 of the 112 rivers it will cross: slicing through golf courses, sports and amenity facilities and historical sites: devastating a number of hamlets, villages and communities: annihilating the village of Burton Green where 22 homes, six almshouses and the village hall are likely to be demolished: closing many small businesses, leading to job losses: damaging the sliver of Green Belt that separates Coventry and Birmingham: creating miles of new roads and road diversions: building many miles of new embankments, many higher than two storey houses, over beautiful unspoiled countryside: scarring landmarks, threatening ancient buildings and disturbing graveyards.

As I viewed the video I got increasingly angrier, and I thought of all the meaningless platitudes that have oozed out of various politicians on the subject of HS2 and its impact upon the environment. The following is a typical example, uttered by Rt Hon Justine Greening MP when she announced that HS2 Phase 1 was to go ahead in January 2012 (Hansard, 10th January 2012, Column 24):

“However, I want to emphasise to the House that in making my decisions, I have been particularly mindful of our responsibility to safeguard the countryside and its wildlife, and to protect local communities as far as possible.”

I defy anyone to view the video and come to the conclusion that the Government has adequately discharged its “responsibility to safeguard the countryside and its wildlife, and to protect local communities”. As Geoffrey Palmer says in the video:

“[The video] shows the impact, the irreparable damage that HS2 will do to our precious environment. It will destroy jobs; it will destroy homes; it will destroy businesses. It will devastate acres of precious woodland and farmland, vitally-important wildlife sites and both town and village communities. Its construction will bring enormous disruption for many people for many years and annihilate miles of our beautiful landscape, for ever.”

After a viewing it becomes hard, I think, not to agree with Geoffrey Palmer’s conclusion that, “HS2 is a price not worth paying”.

In order make up your own mind, why not purchase your own copy of the video? It is available from local action groups, or may be ordered from the Chiltern Society website. It costs £5 and your purchase will contribute to the funds needed to fight the HS2 proposals.

PS: Pride in my own local community impels me to point out the very first image that you see on the video is the spring carpet of wood anemones in South Cubbington Wood, less than a kilometre from where I live (see my blog A walk in the woods, posted 3 Apr 2011).


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