Westminster comes to Cubbington, part 3

(… continued from Westminster comes to Cubbington, part 2, posted on 18 Oct 2014).

One of the pieces of advice that I took away from my meeting with Jeremy Wright MP and Warwickshire District Council was that, if we wanted to provide handouts for the members of the Select Committee to take away with them, then we needed to provide something that could be easily pocketed. Glossy brochures might look good, action group representatives were told, but the risk of handouts not being retained by Members of the Select Committee would increase with each gram of weight of paper.

Our response was for the three parishes in our community forum area to work together on a simple handout, occupying two sheets of A4 stapled together and folded in three to make it jacket inside pocket size. One of these sheets was printed on each side with the annotated “as built” maps that we produced for the display board. The second sheet had the graph showing the trackbed height increases on one side and, on the other side, a summary of the issues raised in the five petitions deposited by our community organisations and the remedies that we seek.

Another tip was to plan for a rainy day. As soon as the designated Tuesday started to appear in weather forecasts I was checking them regularly. The pièce de résistance of the Cubbington tour was intended to be the trip out to the veteran pear tree and the view across the valley. This part of the plan was extremely vulnerable to wind and rain; I really didn’t think that I would manage to persuade anybody to stand on the top of the hill overlooking the valley in a downpour, and the view would not have been very spectacular in the circumstances. So my plan B was to shelter in a barn at the farm where we proposed to park the coach and would otherwise have started the 4×4 journey to the pear tree. There we would be able at least to talk about what our visitors would have seen in better weather. We also made a short video of what they would have seen, which would be running when they reached Offchurch village hall, and then, of course, there were photographs on the display board there.

In the hope that I would at least get to share the microphone on the coach, I prepared some notes for a commentary in advance. I tried to make these as factual, and seemingly unbiased, as I could, concentrating on details of the HS2 design such as height, width and area, spiced up with a little on impacts and property blight. I took on board another tip that I had been given, which was to express size information by comparison with things that we are all familiar with. So, for example, I said that the width of the proposed cutting that would consume the veteran pear tree, at 110 metres, was the length of an international football pitch, and that its depth of 12 metres would allow three double-decker buses to be stacked up in it with them only protruding about one metre – I learnt from a Google search that a double-decker is typically 4.38 metres high. Another example of this that I used was saying that a proposed material transfer stockpile, occupying about 5 ha, was covering three and a half times the area of the cricket ground at Lords – this Google revealed to me is 1.43 ha.

Driving home the message

Driving home the message

The poster above, which is one that I included on the display board at Offchurch village hall, shows this technique in action; I think that it gets the message across very powerfully.

My final act of preparation recognised that we couldn’t rely on the itinerary for timings on the day, and that many people could be kept waiting if the programme slipped. So I agreed with one of the people who would be on the bus all day to send SMS updates on timing to me. That would allow me to alert a number of strategically selected people who could, in turn, pass the message on.

(To be concluded …)

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