Westminster comes to Cubbington, part 4

(… continued from Westminster comes to Cubbington, part 3, posted on 22 Oct 2014).

After a period of very indifferent weather in the days leading up to the visit to the Kenilworth and Southam constituency by Members of the HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee, the sun came out for the afternoon they were coming to visit us in Cubbington. This was an unexpected bonus; the wet-weather plans could be shelved and I could be confident that Warwickshire’s countryside would look its very best for our visitors.

When I was on the way to meet the coach I received a SMS to say that the tour was running forty-five minutes behind schedule, and so I was able to return home to do the bulk of the wait for the coach to arrive in comfort, rather than standing by the roadside. I was, of course, also able to filter that message down, so that others could be spared a long wait in similar circumstances.

By the time that the coach arrived at my agreed pickup point, it was fifty minutes behind schedule. Since it was almost 4pm by then, this didn’t seem to be too far off plan, and there was no suggestion that any changes needed to be made to shorten our local programme. As it was, our section of the tour was just about completed, at a fairly leisurely pace, in the hour allowed.

When I boarded the coach I was directed to the seat directly behind the driver; the window seat of the pair was occupied by Sir Peter Bottomley MP. Sitting on the other side of the aisle in the front seat was an engineer from HS2 Ltd who I knew from the community forums. He handed me the microphone and I was off. To my surprise I was left to make my commentary without interruption or contradiction; the HS2 Ltd engineer made only a couple of comments, aimed at clarifying current location. The need to do this was something that I quickly latched on to for my own commentary. The Members of the Committee had been provided, presumably by HS2 Ltd, with A3 booklets of aerial photographs, annotated with details of the HS2 route. I noticed that Sir Peter was paying close attention to his copy as we travelled around, and assumed that his fellow members were doing the same. It is, accordingly, a good idea, if you are called upon to provide a commentary yourself, to include information to assist the Members to follow the route that the coach is taking on their maps.

Our first port of call was to park opposite some cottages that would be virtually surrounded by HS2 construction, but that have been excluded from the safeguarded zone and are more than 120 metres from the track centreline and do not, therefore, qualify for the express purchase or voluntary purchase schemes. Bob, one of the owners here who has petitioned, runs a falconry experience business and, in addition to the impact that HS2 will have on his home, it will devastate his business; it will be impossible to fly his falcons in the fields around his home as he does now, and he will be forced to move, although no help with the costs of this has been offered to him.

The itinerary only provided for a brief stop here, just long enough for the Members to view the property from the coach and hear about Bob’s plight from me. However, Bob and I hatched a plan. When the coach arrived, Bob would be standing at his gate with a falcon on his arm in the hope that this would tempt the MPs off the coach to talk to him. However, our planned duplicity went pear-shaped; I, and I assume the MPs who were all sitting at the front of the coach, couldn’t see Bob from where we were parked, so the planned temptation of a hawk in the hand was not presented to the MPs and nobody suggested getting off the coach.

Our tour continued, using a rather round-about route, but with the aim of taking the party along the proposed construction traffic route to demonstrate its unsuitability, as we see it. A stop at an affected farm then gave the MPs the chance to talk to the owners, which they appeared to appreciate. We then moved on to another farm where the 4×4 vehicles were waiting for us. Before we transferred to these, the MPs had the opportunity to talk to members of the farm-owning family (see the photograph below).

At the farm (Photo: Frances Wilmot)

At the farm (Photo: Frances Wilmot)

It took some time to shepherd everyone who was coming up to the pear tree into the 4x4s – everybody seemed to be quite happy to stay chatting in the farmyard. The photograph below shows the party taking the short walk from where we dropped them to the tree. South Cubbington Wood is to the right of the walkers and part of the pear tree is visible at the left-hand side of the image. The wooden post that I have indicated is one of three that we put up on the day to illustrate the width of the strip that HS2 would take from the wood.

Walking to the pear tree (Photo: Frances Wilmot)

Walking to the pear tree (Photo: Frances Wilmot)

I was pleased with the level of informality that characterised the day, which extended to a “dress down” approach by some of our visitors. The photograph below shows the gathering by the wild pear tree, including Robert Syms MP (1), Sir Peter Bottomley MP (2), Jeremy Wright MP (3) and your blogger in characteristic pose with mouth open (4).

Gathering at the pear tree (Photo: Frances Wilmot)

Gathering at the pear tree (Photo: Frances Wilmot)

After a brief commune with nature we all returned to the coach and set off for the neighbouring parish of Offchurch where I, reluctantly, relinquished my temporary tour guide duties. I was very happy with the visit. I feel that the Members of the Committee showed a genuine interest in, and were sympathetic to, what we showed them. I also feel that having first met them in an informal setting will make the upcoming hearing procedures at Westminster much less stressful.

Finally, I can’t resist posting the photograph below, which was grabbed by one of the members of Weston under Wetherley Parish Council, and hope that Sir Peter will not mind. I am sure that, as he has reached the venerable age of seventy and has been a Member of the House of Commons since 1975, he will not object to being referred to as a “veteran” in the caption to the image.

One veteran contemplating another (Photo: Peter Haine)

One veteran contemplating another (Photo: Peter Haine)

PS: Good luck to all who will be taking part in the next scheduled Select Committee away day, due to take place in Northamptonshire the day after this blog is first posted. May the weather be kind to you all.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Peter Bottomley on November 5, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Well written; no objection!
    Peter B


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